Starting And Financing A Vending Machine Business

Often, when people think of starting a successful business, they envision high-profile clients signing big checks. But other aspiring entrepreneurs know it makes more sense to think in dollars and cents…and we’re not talking about chump change, here. What we’re talking about is starting a lucrative vending machine business.

Vending machines are everywhere: hospitals, schools, office buildings, malls, and shopping centers. And each year, the vending machine industry brings in billions of dollars in revenue. The great news is you can get in on this profitable venture, whether you have previous business experience or you’re new to the game. All it takes is a little know-how, the right strategy, and one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle: financing.

In this post, we’ll explore starting and financing your vending machine business. We’ll review the ins and outs of the industry, discuss two ways you can start your business, cover the benefits and drawbacks to vending machine businesses, and, of course, talk about how to get the financing you need. Read on to learn more and take the first steps toward launching your successful vending business.

How Vending Machine Businesses Work

We all know how vending machines work from the consumer end of thing — if you’re hungry or thirsty, insert a dollar, some change, or even a credit or debit card to get an instant snack or beverage. Easy!

But, once the machine has your money, where does it go? Most of the money goes directly to the vending machine owner.

The vending machine owner enters into contracts with other businesses. These contracts include details like the commission that will be paid to the business owners in exchange for providing space for the machine.

Vending machines can be used almost anywhere, including but not limited to:

  • Hospitals
  • Shopping Centers & Malls
  • Apartment Complexes
  • Laundromats
  • Hotels
  • Schools
  • Airports

After the machines have been installed, it is the responsibility of the vending machine owner to keep each machine stocked and in working order. Money made from the machines is used to purchase additional inventory, cover maintenance costs, expand the business, and pay business owners per the agreed-upon rate in the contract. After all those expenses are covered, the remaining funds are profits for the vending machine owner.

Pros & Cons Of Vending Machine Businesses

While owning a vending machine business certainly has its benefits, there are some drawbacks to note as well. Let’s fully explore the pros and cons of owning your own vending machine business to help you evaluate whether it’s the right endeavor for you.

Pros

Flexibility

One of the best things about owning a vending machine business is the flexibility it provides. You don’t have to always be on the clock making sure things are getting done. Simply monitor your machines (even easier when you have the ability to do so remotely) and refill stock or perform maintenance as needed. You don’t have to worry about monitoring employees, keeping a watchful eye on your business 24/7, or devoting your entire life to your business. A vending machine business lets you bring in income while still allowing you to focus on family, hobbies, and other business ventures.

Lower Cost Than Other Businesses

Typically, when you start a new business, there are many expenses to consider. You have to find commercial space to rent, lease, or purchase. You have to hire employees. The list goes on. With a vending machine business, you can bypass many of these costs. Sure, you have to purchase your vending machines, keep inventory on hand, pay maintenance costs, and possibly hire an employee to restock your machines. But compared to other businesses, the vending machine business model has extremely low overhead.

Tried-and-True Business Model

In this business, you’re not bringing a risky new product to market that could possibly fail. You’re not operating an overly complicated business that requires expertise and a business degree. You’re using a tried-and-true business model that has been proven to work over decades. Of course, you do have to have a strategy, and you do have to sell yourself and your business to proprietors, but anyone can get started, no matter your previous experience.

Cons

Waiting For Profits

Even though the vending industry rakes in billions of dollars each year, you’re not going to become an overnight millionaire. In some cases, it could take a year or longer to begin seeing profit from your machines. It’s important to go into the business with realistic expectations, a solid strategy, and plenty of patience.

Some Expenses Involved

Even though it’s less expensive to get into the vending machine market than other industries, there are some costs involved. To get started, you have to invest in at least one vending machine. An older, used machine may cost as low as $1,200. A new machine with all the bells and whistles might run you $10,000 or more. The more machines you plan to have, the more expensive it will be to get started.

You’ll also have operating costs, primarily inventory. You can save money by working with a vendor or even buying goods in bulk from big box stores, but this is an ongoing expense that requires capital.

If you plan to expand your business, you face additional costs. This includes hiring an employee or two to keep your machines stocked, purchasing a company vehicle to use for restocking, and upgrading or adding new machines.
While it is possible to start slowly using out-of-pocket funds, most new business owners will need a financial helping hand. This is where loans and other financial products come into play — something we will discuss in more detail a little later.

Two Ways To Start A Vending Machine Business

Does the idea of owning your own vending machine business still appeal to you? If so, it’s important to understand the two ways you can start your business: starting from scratch or buying a pre-existing business.

Option #1: Start From Scratch

The first option for starting your vending machine business is to start from scratch. This requires a little more work in the beginning because you have to scout locations and enter into contracts with other business owners.

Begin by traveling around your area to scout out the best locations for your machines. Strategic vending machine placement is critical to making your business a success. Vending machines should be placed in high-traffic areas where they will be most useful — for example, a coffee vending machine in an office building or a vending machine that dispenses detergent and fabric softener at the local laundromat.

Once locations have been scouted, you’ll work out a contract with the business owner. This allows you to place your vending machines in their place of business at a cost — usually 10% to 20% of your gross sales.

After your locations are mapped out, it’s time to purchase your machines. Only take this step after you figure out locations and what type of machines best fulfill your needs.

Many vending machine business owners invest in machines equipped with credit card readers. Although this equipment is more expensive, these machines have advantages over traditional machines that only accept cash. One of the primary advantages, of course, is that you’ll have access to more customers. Fewer people are carrying cash, so these systems allow them to purchase your merchandise with credit cards, debit cards, or their smartphones. According to Vending Market Watch, consumers spend 32% more when paying with a card versus paying with cash.

Not only is your potential for profits much higher, but these advanced machines come equipped with remote monitoring systems that allow you to keep track of sales, check your inventory, and monitor maintenance needs. This saves you the hassle of having to frequently visit each location in person and helps you ensure your machines are fully stocked and in working order from the comfort of your home or office.

The final step is to make sure that you always keep your machines stocked and well-maintained. If your machine is out of order or out of items, you won’t make money. Evaluate what products are selling well and what items are flopping to maximize your profits.

One last thing to note is that you should always understand the rules and regulations in your area. Laws surrounding vending machines vary by state, so do your research online or contact your local chamber of commerce to learn more about local regulations before diving headfirst into your business.

Option #2: Buy A Pre-Existing Business

The second option is to buy a pre-existing business. Instead of doing the initial setup work yourself, you take over an existing business that already has equipment and, in most cases, locations secured with contracts.

The obvious advantage is that this automatically gives you a more turn-key operation. A major drawback is that this is often the most expensive option. After all, you aren’t just buying the equipment and inventory — you’re also taking over existing contracts.

If you choose this option, it’s best to have some business experience under your belt since you need to hit the ground running. You’ll also need to ensure you can secure the capital needed to purchase the business.

How To Finance Your Vending Machine Business

Whether you’re starting from the ground up or you’re in talks to purchase an existing business, there’s one thing you need before you take the leap into entrepreneurship: money. Even if your business is already off the ground, you’re going to need additional capital to expand and boost your profits — capital that you can receive with a small business loan.

Starting A Vending Machine Business

Starting a vending machine business can be surprisingly low-cost. After all, you don’t have to worry about paying for commercial space or utility bills. However, there are still startup costs associated with this type of business.
Some of the costs you may incur when starting your business include:

  • Equipment
  • Inventory
  • Vending Management System
  • Commercial vehicle used for restocking machines

Unfortunately, qualifying for traditional business financing options is difficult for startups. Many business loans, including those from banks, credit unions, and the Small Business Administration, have time in business and annual revenue requirements that you just won’t meet.

This doesn’t mean you’re out of financing options. Instead, you can use a personal loan for business to cover startup costs.

With a personal loan for business, you’ll use your personal credit score, income, and other information to prove your creditworthiness. Since this isn’t a business loan, you don’t have to worry about annual revenue, business credit score, or other requirements.

Recommended Option: LendingPoint Personal Loan

Review

Visit Site

Through LendingPoint, you can receive up to $25,000 as quickly as the next business day. Interest rates are between 15.49% and 30%. Your loan is repaid twice a month over terms of 24 to 48 months.

One of the advantages of LendingPoint is that you don’t need a perfect credit score to qualify. These personal loans are designed for fair-credit borrowers. To qualify, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have annual income of at least $20,000
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 600
  • Live in one of the 34 states where LendingPoint operates

Unsure if you qualify? Check out our list of the best free credit score sites to review your credit score. Then, head over to our LendingPoint review to learn more about receiving a personal loan.

Purchasing A Vending Machine Business

If you’ve decided that purchasing an existing vending machine business is right for you, the next step is getting the capital you need to acquire the business. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have an existing business, qualifying for a business loan can be difficult.

As a startup, you may qualify for startup loans or other types of business financing. Learn more about how to get a business acquisition loan.

However, personal loans used for business expenses are also an option. Just as we discussed above, you can use your personal information to qualify for financing to acquire an existing business.

Our previous recommendation, LendingPoint, can only provide up to $25,000. If you need more capital, consider Lending Club personal loans.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Lending Club issues personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. APRs range from 6.95% and 35.89% and are based on your credit score and history and the amount and term of your loan. There are no prepayment penalties. Repayment terms of up to 60 months are available.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or live in the U.S. on a long-term visa
  • Have a credit score of 600 or above

Ready to learn more? Check out our Lending Club personal loans review for more information.

Equipment Purchasing

As your business grows, you’ll want to add more vending machines to your lineup. You may also have to replace broken or outdated machines to maximize revenues. Unfortunately, vending machines don’t come cheap. While a used, basic model may cost just over $1,000, newer machines run several thousand dollars apiece. Though this seems like a big investment, you could easily increase your profits and see a big return with more expensive specialty machines or equipment that comes with credit card readers.

Another piece of equipment that may be critical to your business is a commercial vehicle. A van, car, or truck that is used to drive to your locations and restock or manage your machines may be something you consider purchasing as your business grows.

When it comes to buying equipment, there’s one option that stands out from the rest: equipment financing. Just as the name suggests, this type of small business loan is used to purchase equipment, breaking down huge price tags into smaller, more manageable payments.

With equipment financing, you have two options: equipment loans and equipment leases. With a loan, you’ll pay a down payment that is typically 10% to 20% of the cost of the equipment. You’ll take immediate possession of the equipment, and you’ll pay your lender on a weekly or monthly basis over a set period of time. Once you’ve fully repaid the loan (plus interest), the equipment belongs to you.

With a lease, you’ll also pay a down payment and take possession of the equipment. However, your lease period will be for a shorter period of time — usually 2 to 3 years. Similar to loans, you’ll make regularly scheduled payments to the lender. Once your lease is over, you can sign another lease for new equipment. Some lenders even allow you to pay the remaining balance at the end of your lease to take ownership of the equipment. Leasing may be a good option if you plan to upgrade equipment frequently. However, this could be the more expensive option over the long term.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

If you need equipment financing, Lendio has options. This isn’t a direct lender. Rather, it is a loan aggregator that connects you with its network of over 75 lenders. What’s great about Lendio is that you can compare offers from multiple lenders with just one application.

Lendio offers $5,000 to $5 million for the purchase of equipment. Terms are between 1 to 5 years with rates starting at 7.5%.

To qualify for equipment financing through Lendio’s network, you must have the following:

  • A time in business of at least 12 months
  • A credit score of 650 or above
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue

Credit scores below 650 may be accepted with proof of solid cash flow and revenue from the last 3 to 6 months.

Through Lendio, you can also apply for other types of financing including Small Business Administration loans, business credit cards, short-term loans, and lines of credit. Check out our Lendio review to learn more.

Inventory Purchasing

One of the few ongoing expenses you’ll have in your vending machine business is inventory. It’s your responsibility to keep your machines well-stocked at all times, so you’ll need to have inventory on-hand to keep your machines full.
Sometimes, incoming cash flow has slowed or you may need more inventory than usual due to an increase in sales. It’s not uncommon to fall a little short financially from time to time, but when this occurs, you can be prepared with a business credit card or a line of credit.

Business Credit Card

A business credit card works just like a personal credit card. The issuer of the card sets a limit. You can make multiple purchases up to and including the credit limit online, at retail stores or with vendors that accept credit cards. Each month, you’ll make a payment that is applied toward your balance plus the interest charged by the lender. As you pay down your balance, funds will become available for you to use again.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

If you want to go with a business credit card, Chase Ink Unlimited is available for borrowers with excellent credit.
The Chase Ink Unlimited card comes with a 0% introductory APR for 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable interest rate of 15.24% to 21.24%. This card does not have an annual fee.

As a new Chase Ink Unlimited cardholder, you’ll receive $500 cash back if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account. But the rewards don’t stop there. You’ll receive unlimited 1.5% cash back for every business purchase.

To qualify, the recommended credit score is 740 to 850. Learn more by reading our Chase Ink Unlimited review.

Business Line Of Credit

A business line of credit is very similar to a credit card and can be a great option for purchasing inventory. A lender will set a credit limit based on your creditworthiness or the performance of your business. Instead of using a card, however, you’ll initiate draws from your line of credit. Funds will then be transferred to your business bank account, usually within 1 to 3 business days. Lenders charge fees and/or interest on the portion of funds you’ve borrowed. As you pay down your outstanding balance, funds become available to withdraw again.

Both credit cards and lines of credit provide you with on-demand funding, ideal for those times when you need to purchase inventory but come up a little short financially.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

Review

Visit Site

Through Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000 to cover inventory and other business expenses.
Fundbox offers pricing that’s easy to understand. With each draw, you’ll pay a one-time fee. Fees start at just 4.66% of the amount drawn. If you repay early, all remaining fees are waived. Payments are made weekly and are spread out over 12 or 24 weeks.

Fundbox looks beyond your personal credit score during its approval process. The lender evaluates the performance of your business to determine whether you qualify for a line of credit.

Requirements to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit are minimal. You only need:

  • A business based in the United States
  • A business checking account
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • 2 months of activity in supported accounting software OR 3 months of business bank statements

To learn more and determine if this product is right for your business, check out our Fundbox review.

Final Thoughts

Starting your own vending machine business can be a very lucrative venture with the right strategy in place. This includes calculating the cost of owning and operating your business, doing your research, and getting the right financing.

Understand the potential expenses you’ll encounter, read up on your local laws, then check out our Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans to explore more financing options available to you.

The post Starting And Financing A Vending Machine Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It?

Venmo has earned its status at the top mobile wallet and P2P payments app, ranking along with PayPal and Square Cash as easy, free, and trusted ways to move money around and pay back friends or family.

Venmo launched in 2009 and was eventually acquired by Braintree and then PayPal. Despite being owned by PayPal, Venmo is hardly a PayPal clone. With an estimated 10 million users, Venmo combines a social element with its payments platform, publishing a record of the transaction (though not the amount) to its social feed, along with a note or comment (or sometimes just an emoji). If you want a more detailed look at Venmo, check out our Venmo review for more information!

This social network aspect is one of the ways Venmo sets itself apart from its competitors. The company has also more recently begun allowing merchants to accept payments through Venmo — though with some rather stringent requirements. If you’re wondering whether Venmo could be right for your business, you’re in the right place — we’ll talk about what the requirements are to implement Venmo as a payment option at checkout, and what kinds of businesses Venmo is best suited to.

How Do You Accept Venmo For Businesses?

Venmo is both painfully clear and annoying vague about what kinds of businesses are eligible for accepting Venmo payments. For example, there isn’t a list of prohibited businesses (like you’d find with PayPal, Braintree, and Square). However, Venmo also says that “Venmo can be used to purchase items directly from participating approved apps and online stores.”

Be aware that you can’t natively build Venmo acceptance into your website or app. Instead, you need to go through either Braintree or PayPal for payment processing to add this option. Braintree says that the following use cases are not permitted:

  • Selling goods or services in person.
  • Receiving payment for goods or services through the Venmo app.
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer transactions between two Venmo users.

What does that all mean? Essentially it means you can’t use Venmo directly to accept payments. If you, for example, sell Pampered Chef, Scentsy, LulaRoe, or any other kind of product, your clients can’t just send you a payment via Venmo. If you sell something on Facebook, you can’t meet up with someone and hand them the item in exchange for a Venmo transaction. If you want to accept Venmo for payments, you need to follow the appropriate steps and build the payment option into your website or mobile app.

It also means that you can’t set up a service that says “You send us the money (plus a possible convenience fee) and we’ll send it to someone else for you.” It should be pretty obvious that is a no-no, but generally, those kinds of things need to be clearly stated for legal purposes.

The last requirement? You must be based in the US, which a major difference between Venmo and its global parent company, PayPal. Venmo currently isn’t available to users outside the US at all.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s talk about how to you can actually implement Venmo payments.

Option 1: Accept Venmo Through Braintree

Braintree Payment Solutions (read our review) is a merchant services provider with a special focus on online and mobile payments. The company, as I mentioned early, is owned by PayPal, and its offerings work pretty seamlessly with PayPal’s, but it is a fairly separate entity. For example, you do get a traditional merchant account. (PayPal is a third-party payment processor, which leads to a greater degree of account stability than merchant accounts.) Braintree is global friendly — even if that’s irrelevant in the case of Venmo payments — and it supports a huge array of payment types, both in apps and on the web. As a result, it will take a developer to implement Braintree payments and get the most out of the Braintree platform.

Braintree specifically says that in order to use Venmo, you must be using one of the following SDKs:

  • iOS v4
  • Android v2
  • Javascript v3 

What this means is you can build Venmo into iOS or Android apps, or into web/mobile web payments that use Javascript. Braintree, on the whole, supports several other programming languages as well. Braintree will also allow customers to save their payment information for subscriptions and recurring billing, including Venmo payments.

Finally, Braintree’s standard pricing applies for Venmo transactions, so most merchants will pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction unless they’ve already negotiated special pricing. Venmo transactions are settled according to the same terms as Discover card transactions, but you can identify them in your dashboard by looking for the Venmo logo in the payment type.

Option 2: Accept Venmo Through PayPal Checkout

If Braintree isn’t quite what you’re interested in, you can also implement Venmo Payments using PayPal Checkout (formerly known as Express Checkout). Checkout is PayPal’s recommended option if you are adding payments to an ecommerce shopping cart or offering PayPal as a supplemental option to another credit card processor. Keep in mind that PayPal (read our review) is a third-party payment processor and, as such, comes with an inherent risk of account instability — the potential for holds on funds or even an account freeze if PayPal’s system flags any suspicious behavior.

Also, this option still requires a developer and some code work. PayPal has upgraded its Checkout offering with “Smart” customizable payment buttons and contextual tools that will display multiple checkout options — PayPal, PayPal Credit, or Venmo — based on what it knows about a consumer. Currently, Venmo is only available on mobile devices, though that may change in the future. It’s also worth noting that PayPal Checkout doesn’t allow you to present Venmo as a stand-alone payment option. If you’d like this feature, you’ll need to go with Braintree instead.

With Venmo transactions, you’ll pay your standard PayPal rates, which will be 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for most merchants. (Keep in mind that PayPal does have a micropayments option for merchants whose average transaction sizes are under $10.) PayPal treats them just like all other transactions; currently, they are not identifiable as Venmo transactions. Again, PayPal may change this feature down the line.

Finally, it’s important to note that because Venmo is owned by PayPal, PayPal’s Seller Protection policy applies to Venmo transactions. For buyers, Venmo has its own protection policy, which is the same as PayPal’s in many ways, though Venmo admits there are some differences. Venmo lays out its terms and conditions for merchants in the user agreement if you’d like to take a closer look.

Should You Add Venmo To Your Payments Set Up?

Venmo is a powerful tool. An estimated 10 million users make for a significant userbase that many merchants may want to tap into. But all the same, accepting Venmo for your business only makes sense in certain contexts. You can’t just use the Venmo app to accept payments directly — you can’t process any sort of in-person transaction, as a matter of fact. If you do sell online, adding Venmo only makes sense if you have a very strong mobile user base. For one, PayPal will only display Venmo as a checkout option for mobile devices. Second, there’s no sense in adding Venmo if your customers don’t even know what a mobile wallet is.

However, if you do have a mobile app and your audience is young, tech-savvy and social, adding Venmo as an option makes a lot of sense. It’s available on both Android and iOS, and if you go through Braintree you can present Venmo as a standalone checkout option rather than as a payment option that is linked with PayPal.

It’s pretty likely that we’ll see Venmo sinking more resources into its business platform in the coming year, so we could very easily see some changes to Venmo’s requirements for business. If you’re still on the fence about Venmo, there’s no rush! Familiarize yourself with the product and wait to see what else Venmo has in store before you make a decision.

Have questions or comments? We always love to hear from our reader base, so check out our comment guidelines and leave us your thoughts!

The post Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App

Many business owners know and love Square for its free mobile point of sale app and free credit card readers, but some don’t realize that Square automatically provides some pretty powerful reporting and analytics features with their processing service.

Even if you’re primarily using Square to accept payments. Square dashboard feature is worth a closer look. Now more than ever, understanding data is critical to making smart business decisions every day, no matter what industry you’re in.

Read on for a look at some of the most notable features and benefits of the Square dashboard.

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Square’s Online Dashboard Features

The Square Dashboard makes it easy to understand both simple and complex aspects of your business. Best of all, it’s completely free with all Square accounts, and you can check it out from your favorite browser with no issues. (Note: Square’s Dashboard app is currently only available for iPhones; an Android version is coming soon. We’ll take a more in-depth look into the mobile app’s capabilities later in this post.)

The Square Dashboard boasts a simple, easy-to-use interface, and its intuitive design allows you to find what you want quickly. You can play around with your Home screen until it displays the sections in the order you think makes the most sense. This dashboard is so user-friendly that data geeks and amateurs alike can find something to love. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Manage Settings

The Settings area acts as a control center where you can manage all kinds of permissions and security settings, including setting up 2-step verification for sign-in for you and your employees. Here, you can also edit your business name as it appears on your receipts and statements and change your bank account if needed.

Settings is also the place to manage multiple business locations (if applicable) and get device codes set up for each of your devices rather than simply relying on your email and password.

Get Paid From Your Dashboard 

One of the most important functions of the dashboard is getting paid!

If you are using your Virtual Terminal, you can access it directly from your dashboard to accept payment. Payments here are 3.5% + 15¢ per keyed-in transaction — or, if you have your Square Reader for magstripe, you’ll pay 2.75% per transaction. (A quick note, you need to have a Chromebook or Mac computer to take advantage of this.)

Square’s Virtual Terminal

If you invoice your customers, you can send a one-off invoice or set up recurring invoices from your dashboard, too. Invoices are free to send out, and you will pay 2.9% + 30¢ per invoice when your customers pay with credit or debit online. Square has beefed up its features in this regard, with the option to let customers pay in installments as well as the ability to request a downpayment.

Transferring Funds To Your Account

The Settings area also allows you to play around with your deposit schedule. By default, your account is set to deposit funds accrued by 8:00 pm EST to your account the next business day.

Need them even sooner? If you are in need of your funds right away, you can opt to use instant deposit. Instant deposit transfers your sales balance to your linked debit card whether it’s a business day or a weekend (for an additional 1% of the balance). Check out How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work? for a more detailed look at this feature.

 

Now that we have covered the basics of some of the features under Settings, let’s discover more about the reporting features, found in the Square Reports tab (under Sales).

Reporting

Within the Sales section of the Square Dashboard, you’ll discover important insights into how your business (and your employees) operate. For instance, in the Reports tab, you have multiple subsections that give you visual data about nearly every part of your business.

The Square Reports tab is broken down by sections:

  • Sales Summary: The summary shows all of your gross sales, net sales, discounts, and more. You can change the time period of the report to display an overview of the whole year or see what your sales are doing today, in real time.

  • Sales Trends: Trends gives you a visual representation of all of your sales in the form of a line graph to quickly see how your sales perform day to day, week to week, and year to year.
  • Payment Methods: The payment methods feature gives you a snapshot of how customers are paying, how many transactions they have with you, and the fees associated with each type. Whether your customers are paying with cash, card, or gift card —it is all right there.
  • Item Sales: This section breaks down sales totals by item. Get an exact count on what products and services are selling the best — and which are selling the least.
  • Category Sales: Not only can you see an itemized list of everything you’re selling in the item sales section, but Square’s reporting feature also breaks things down by category.
  • Mobile Staff Sales: Keep track of who your best mobile sellers are with a quick view that shows you when they sell through the day. Finding out when sales peak can help you schedule and better manage your entire remote staff — and help you spot your best sellers for the day.
  • Employee Sales: Similar to the mobile staff sales section, the employee sales section helps you keep track of who is selling what. This section shows you sales per hour, tips, hours worked, and when sales peaked for the day. To be able to use this, you’ll have to have an Employee Management subscription, which costs $5/employee per month.
  • Discounts: The discount sections shows a list for the amount and frequency of your discounts that are applied to anything your customers buy.
  • Taxes: This section breaks the sales tax information down for you by the type of tax, how much it is, and any non-taxable sales you have.
  • Gift Cards: Find out what you need to know about any gift cards you sell. This section overviews any gift cards you load, how much was put on them, how many were redeemed, and how many existing gift cards you have floating around at any time.
  • Comps: Comps keep track of changes to orders that may affect your bottom line. If a change will cause a loss to your business, or if you want to place a discount on an order and eat the cost, you will utilize the comp function.
  • Voids: For a change to an order that doesn’t affect inventory or costs (i.e., a customer changes an order before it’s made), you will use the void function.

Worried about keeping accurate books? You can also export your data from nearly any accounting software. The best part is that because the dashboard is so easy to navigate, you don’t have to wade through a lot of Excel sheets to get to your data. Keeping things in one central location can mean less hassle, as you have created a streamlined workflow from data to decisions. And that can make for smart business decisions at every level. 

Customer Care

Square has some excellent — and entirely free — built-in features that can help you understand and take control of customer satisfaction. The foundation of this is the Square Directory, a free tool you can use to build customer profiles, including their names, contact information, and purchase history. You can also keep notes on each customer! A detailed transaction and activity history can help you understand how your customers interact with you through time.

Square offers insights that show you how often your customers visit and how often they return to you. The insights can help you track retention patterns, and if you have multiple locations, help you understand which of your locations is doing better. You can create segments of your “regulars” or identify customers who have lapsed in visits and (if you opt to use Square’s Marketing suite) reach out to them with promotions.

The other tool worth mentioning is Square Feedback. Here, you can encourage any customers who have negative issues to leave you private feedback where you can offer resolution directly. Your customers can send private feedback from their receipt so you can keep track of any repeated issues or isolated issues quickly. It’s possible to respond to the feedback, issue refunds, or send coupons — all through the Square dashboard.

Square’s Customer Feedback Features

Inventory

While you can create items from within the Square Point of Sale app, the Square Dashboard offers much more comprehensive tools to manage your inventory. You can create items manually, one by one, or do a bulk upload with a CSV file. In the dashboard, you can also manage quantities of items and set low-stock alerts, so you know when it’s time to re-order something. Square’s inventory supports barcodes (though it can’t print labels), as well as variants and modifiers. You can even sort your inventory by category.

Square gives you access to reports that will break the sales data down into beautiful graphs for you to keep track of what inventory items are selling the best. By using the inventory tools, you can quickly see what inventory is moving the fastest and can make better decisions about what to do next.  This real-time data reporting feature means you always have the most up-to-date, accurate information when it comes to re-ordering, managing promotions, and distribution (if you have more than one location). 

How Square Dashboard Insights Lead To Smart Promotions

Sure, the capability to easily keep up with your inventory, sales, and customer management are all benefits, but the dashboard can also give you powerful insights when it comes to making decisions about marketing your business.

For example, you may have a great product that hasn’t quite caught on with customers yet. This app shows you who is buying that lesser-known service or item, allowing you to then run a referral campaign as an incentive for those people to tell their family and friends.

And when it’s time to run a promotion, or you have ongoing discounts to offer, you can track the success of those promotional pushes as well. You’ll find this handy feature in the reporting feature under the Discounts section.

Don’t forget: Square’s Loyalty Program (which starts at $25/month) can be managed from within the dashboard. It syncs with the Directory and allows you to customize your loyalty program perks, right down to the branding of the program. Square really does offer you a centralized way to manage your interactions with your customers and make smart decisions on how to drive sales.

The Square Dashboard App

The Square Dashboard App allows you to take some of the Dashboard’s analytic and real-time updating power with you on the go — if you have an iPhone with the latest version of iOS running. (For those of you with an Android phone, Square is working on developing a compatible app, so stay tuned.)

After you download the app, you can sign into your account. You’ll see right away that it is a bit more simplified than the full online Square Dashboard.

That said, the Square Dashboard App still gives you quite a bit of control on the go. You can view live sales data from more than one location, add customers to your directory, and take a peek at activity through the day. What you can’t do is send an invoice from your app; you will have to log in to your online Square Dashboard to update and submit invoices and send them from within Square Point of Sale.

Make Smarter Business Decisions For A Low Cost & High Value

Ready to get started and dig into the reporting and analytics features? You don’t have to do anything if you are already using Square. It’s all in your Dashboard. You will find every section we highlighted above — from sales summaries and trends to employee sales activity through the day — and it’s all accessible in real time, completely free with your account. 

For any business owner, the ability to quickly track pending invoices and handle customer feedback concerns privately can mean the difference between success and failure. And when it comes to comparing location performance, employee activities, and sales trends over the long term, the dashboard can help you make smarter, more informed decisions for your business.

With everything that Square offers in terms of free features and reporting options, the cost-to-value ratio is a no-brainer. You get a lot of benefit out of this robust product that keeps delivering real-time data to you all year.

Remember, though: While Square doesn’t cost anything to use, you will be responsible for paying credit card processing costs! But unless you opt for a monthly subscription product such as Loyalty, Marketing, or Employee Management, transaction fees will be your only consistent costs with Square.

With Square, fees for each type of transaction can vary, but you’ll pay the same for any type of card. Here is a quick break-down of the most common transaction costs:

  • Square Point of Sale with a mobile card reader: 2.75% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction.
  • Square Register: 2.5% + $0.10 per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction
  • Square Terminal: 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction

For more on Square’s transaction pricing, check out How Much Does Square Charge?

If you are interested in learning more about all of Square’s hardware options, check out our Guide to Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles.

Try the Square Online Dashboard For Free

If you are already a Square user, the next step is simple: head over to your dashboard and start checking things out. If you haven’t gotten started with Square yet, you can sign up for a free account with Square and test it out for yourself. There are no credit checks for this, and a free mag-stripe reader comes to your mailbox after you sign up.

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

Get things set up, keep doing what you do best, and then watch Square build reports for your business in real time.

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

The post Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Website Hosting Explained

Website Hosting Explained

Website hosting is reserved space on a computer server that stores & serves files related to a website (ie, HTML, CSS, images, etc) to browsers when requested via the Internet. Website hosting is usually connected to a human-readable domain name.

As an analogy, website hosting is like a plot of physical land…but on the Internet. Like a physical plot of land, it’s usually connected to a known address, and it’s only truly useful if you build something on it. Also like physical land, website hosting can come with an infrastructure to make your project easier / cheaper. It also has many tradeoffs.

That’s the short version. But there’s more to website hosting than the definition. I’ll cover common questions like –

  • What is Web Hosting?
  • How Website Hosting Works?
  • How Does Website Hosting, Domains, Email and Website Software Work Together?
  • How Much Does It Cost To Host A Website?
  • Can You Get Free Web Hosting?
  • What Makes a Good Website Host?
  • How Do I Purchase Website Hosting?
  • Can You Transfer Website Hosting?
  • Website Hosting Company Examples & Next Steps

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What is Website Hosting?

In plain language, website hosting stores & serves website files to be delivered to whomever asks for them via the Internet.

Everything that you access on the Internet is ultimately made up of files delivered by a server. Website hosting refers to the server or section of a server where the files that make up a website are “hosted”.

Technically, any computer configured as a server and connected to the Internet (e.g., your home computer) can provide website hosting.

However, in practice, website hosting almost always refers to space on a leased pre-configured server that has a high-capacity connection to major Internet network.

How Does Website Hosting Work?

Website hosting works by taking a server, putting website files on it, adding software that provides instructions to access those files, then connecting a domain name so that people on browsers can easily find those files.

Website Hosting HTML Files

Website hosting usually has software installed to make management simpler. This is referred to as a software “stack”. The most common “stack” is LAMP, which refers to

  • Linux – the operating system of the server. Some website hosts use Windows, but it’s much less common.
  • Apache – the software that sorts and filters requests for files. Some hosts use NGINX, which is usually faster, but is not as widely supported by website software.
  • MySQL – the default database that the server has for websites that use databases. Some hosts allow other types of databases.
  • PHP – a programming language used by many website software programs. The host will usually support other languages as well.

Most of these settings are pre-configured and only used by non-developers to shop around and compare apples to apples among hosting companies. Website hosts usually have server / hosting management software (e.g., cPanel) installed to make installing website software, managing files, changing settings accessible for non-developers.

Here’s an example from InMotion Hosting’s cPanel. You see this when you log into your account.

InMotion cPanel

How Does Website Hosting, Domains, Email and Website Software Work Together?

Hosting stores your files. Domains make finding your files easy. Website software (e.g., WordPress) makes it simple to create, manage and manipulate lots of website files. Email software can also live on your website host and will manage & sort email requests (and receipts) on your server. Due to spam, many companies use their domain settings to send emails elsewhere (e.g., Google Suite for Business or Outlook).

Here’s a real-life example.

A few seconds (or minutes) ago, you clicked on something that made your browser send a request to my website hosting for all the files located at https://www.shivarweb.com/21925/website-hosting-explained/

That request was sorted and routed via my domain name / DNS settings to a VPS server at InMotion Hosting‘s datacenter in Los Angeles. My website’s files live on a section of that server with dedicated resources to store & serve my files. In the screenshot, I have my domain “pointed” to InMotion’s servers.

Namecheap DNS Setup

The pre-installed Apache software looked at said “yep, this request is legit…go this location for everything that you need”.

At that location lives a bunch of files (created and managed by a piece of software called WordPress) that were executed. They went and pulled information from the mySQL database, built out the files that needed to be delivered, and handed them off to the server to send out.

Web Hosting Images

Those files were pulled in and loaded in the correct order by your browser to show what you are seeing now.

A little bit later today, I might log into my server or WordPress installation and edit this page.

Ok.

That might all sounds *massively* complicated. And it is. But your house or car or dishwasher might also sound that complicated with every step involved.

Like your house or car or dishwasher thought, most everything is pre-configured and set up to work well every time. The important thing to know is that the process is not magic and every website on the Internet goes through a very similar process.

How Much Does It Cost To Host A Website?

It depends 🙂

The cost of hosting a website usually depends on the amount of resources that you want / need. Resources include not only memory & storage space, but also human customer support, bandwidth, software, security, company reputation, etc. Here’s an example from the company that hosts this website.

Example Web Hosting

The vast majority of websites can run just fine on shared hosting. Shared hosting is where a hosting company leases out accounts on a server and manages resources among them all. Shared hosting will usually run from $5 to $20 per month depending on features, plans, and discounting.

Get a sense of different shared plans on my Guide to Shared hosts here.

The pricing spectrum beyond shared hosting gets a bit tricky to price out. A VPS hosting plan is where a hosting company divides up the resources of a server so that you have known resources. VPS pricing usually runs $25 to $150 per month depending on features, plans and discounting.

Get a sense of different VPS plans on my Guide to VPS hosts here.

Now – the top end with dedicated hosting, managed hosting, specialized WordPress hosting, reseller, etc gets out of the scope of this explainer. However, I do want to touch on Cloud hosting. Cloud hosting is where you (usually) pay for use on one of the big cloud networks like Google, Amazon or Microsoft. It can be incredibly cheap…or way more expensive than you’d want. That’s because shared / VPS hosting operates on a bundled pricing and cloud is straight a la carte.

Get a sense of different WordPress hosting plans, Reseller hosting plans, and Dedicated hosting plans here.

Additionally, even shared hosting accounts will usually allow you to host multiple websites on a single account. So when you are comparing costs, be sure to look at *your* total value for your use.

Can You Get Free Web Hosting?

Yes…but there will be strings attached, so you’ll pay in some form or fashion.

You will either pay with advertising (Wix Free Plans, WordPress.com Free Plans, etc), poor service and hard limits (Blogger, Google Sites, etc) or with complexity (Google Cloud).

There are some companies that claim to offer free web hosting…but I would be *extremely* wary. Remember that if you are not paying for the product…you are the product.

What Makes a Good Website Host?

A good website host matches your budget & goals. They provide what they promise. I am not one to preach that there is “one best host” or a single way to be a good host, because everybody needs different things.

Some people value cost above all – and do not mind poor performance or limited customer support if they get a genuinely good deal. Some people want excellent service no matter what. Some people want a company that is independently owned and some want a big name-brand.

There are absolutely hosting companies that are better than others, but the biggest factor is your own goals and expectations.

I have a guide to choosing the best shared hosting for your project here (along with similar guides to WordPress and VPS hosting).

How Do I Purchase Website Hosting?

Find a hosting company that meets your goals, pick your plan and buy! Most established hosting companies are pretty good at “onboarding” – ie, moving a new customer to an active customer.

Go to my guide to best shared hosting companies, take the quiz, and head over. Once you’ve purchased hosting, you’ll also need a domain name to “connect” to your account. From there you can install website software (like WordPress). I wrote a start to finish setup guide here.

Can You Transfer Website Hosting?

Yes! Absolutely. One of the best things about self-hosting rather than using a hosted website builder is that you can generally pick up and leave for better pastures.

You will need to make sure that the plan and company that you’ve picked have the same “tech stack” – (ie, Linux). Many times hosting companies will do the transfer for you for free, but I also have a somewhat dated but still accurate guide to transferring manually.

Next Steps

Now that you know about website hosting, be sure to put your knowledge to use. Find the right hosting company for you or learn how to optimize the account that you already have or check out the related post below to learn more!

The post Website Hosting Explained appeared first on ShivarWeb.

“”

Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets And Grocery Stores

As a small business owner who is launching a new shop or exploring your payment processing options, finding the right POS to accept payments is not a decision to be made lightly. You probably already know that the grocery industry has its own unique rewards and challenges. Keeping up with supply and demand, getting your name out there, competing with the bigger brands, and strengthening your own brand recognition takes time, energy, and a lot of know-how. Fortunately, Square offers a fantastic POS option for markets and grocery stores that goes way beyond just the swipe.

Read on to find out how Square payment processing tools can benefit your business whether you are opening a pop-up shop, have a brick-and-mortar store, or take your culinary delights on the go to farmer’s markets and trade shows.

Square’s Free Point-Of-Sale Reader & App

Square is best known for the free Square Point of Sale app and the free Square Reader. Square’s iconic white reader plugs into a smartphone or tablet to make mobile payments possible. The Square Point of Sale app allows you to “swipe, dip, or tap payments” whether or not you have an internet signal. If you run into a spotty WiFi connection or have a service interruption, you don’t have to worry about a line bottleneck because the app can securely save data offline.

For the smaller to mid-size shop, the Square Point of Sale app has everything you will need and then some. We dive into all of these features below, so keep reading for a closer look at how Square gives you better control over more parts of your business, from inventory management to sales, employees, and even more.

We’ll also take a look at how Square can also help you completely run or supplement your marketing campaigns with an all-in-one solution that can integrate a loyalty program and private customer feedback. Most of these perks (except for the loyalty program option) are all “in-the-box” features that you won’t pay anything more to use with your free POS Square reader.  Let’s dig in!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Track Inventory

One thing will never change — people love to eat. However, keeping your supply up-to-date can be a challenge when it comes to balancing the ebb and flow of demand. Your customers come in for a specific product or ingredient; making sure it’s always there for them builds loyalty and trust. Managing inventory can be tricky if you don’t have the right tools.

Thankfully, Square builds inventory management right into their product, so you don’t ever have to think twice about shopping around for a suite of tools. It’s easy to set up your inventory — you can bulk import all of your products with a CSV spreadsheet and make any adjustments to name, prices, or quantities as needed. Once your inventory is saved, you can also set low-stock alerts so that Square will let you know if you’re running low on a product. The best part is that you can determine what constitutes “low stock,” whether that’s six of an item, or 100! You’ll also always be able to take a peek in real time at what — and how much — of your products are selling.

Square’s inventory also supports variants and modifiers. Variants are helpful if you carry a product that comes in different flavors or sizes — you can keep the item listing centralized, but still track quantities of each flavor or size and see which ones are most popular. You can even set different pricing for each variant, as appropriate. Modifiers are more applicable to restaurants and cafes, but if you run a small boutique store and want to upsell customers on special bundles or extra discounted products, you could add them as modifiers.

Square’s inventory system allows you to upload photos for each product, and on a tablet you can configure the layout of products. However, if you don’t like browsing for the right item, you can also attach a barcode scanner. While the free Point of Sale App doesn’t have native label printing, you can find several viable workarounds.

Also, if you sell products in bulk, it’s important to know that Square doesn’t currently support tracking partial increments of a product, or selling by weight. Again, you can find workarounds for this, one of them being the variable price point feature. With the variable price point, you can create an item and track sales, but the POS app will prompt you to enter an amount for the sale when you select the item.

Finally, if you have more than one shop, you can take advantage of the free multi-location inventory management tools. Square allows you to set up individual preferences for each location, including taxes. You can build your inventory from Square’s centralized item catalog and adjust pricing and availability as appropriate. Plus, you can run reports to see sales by location, POS device, or even by individual employee (you’ll need an Employee Management subscription for that last report.) 

The best part is that you can control all of this — every location, all of your inventory, all of your devices — from your Square Dashboard, which is a free web portal. Below we also cover a little bit more about the dashboard — including how it helps you keep track of employee sales, tips, peak sales times, and more.

Square Dashboard

The Square dashboard gives you an integrated look at many aspects of your store — and these reporting and analytics features are all free. You can view your stats in real time and see what is going on in your store — or stores — simply by visiting the Sales tab in the dashboard. Whether you want to dig into the data or you just want a quick visual representation of sales, you can find what you need, fast. You can access reports, view all types of transactions, and keep track of deposits all by quickly scanning the three tabs at the top of your dashboard.

The reports tab breaks all of your data down into simple graphs and data to view aspects of your shop, including:

  • Sales Summary: Your sales summary report is updated in real time and can be viewed by day, month, or year.
  • Sales Trends: See your sales performance in daily, weekly, or yearly views.
  • Payments Methods: This report displays how your customers pay and any fees associated with the transaction.
  • Item Sales: Allows you to find out how well any individual product is selling.
  • Category Sales: Get a quick pie-chart view of which categories are bringing in the most sales such as appetizers, side dishes, or drinks, for example.
  • Employee Sales: This report breaks down tips, hours worked, and when an employee’s sales peaked for the day. (Note: You need to subscribe to Square’s Employee Management to access these features)
  • Discounts: Running a promotion? This report tells you how often your customers use a discount, coupon, or another offer when they buy. (More about loyalty programs through Square later in the post.)
  • Taxes: This report breaks all of your tax information down by the type, amount, and records any non-taxable sales in one spot.

Square also allows you to create your own custom reports, so if you want to see certain pieces of information together, you can tell Square to compile that report for you, and even how often to send it.

Don’t forget that the Dashboard is also the centralized management hub for all of your other Square services, including invoicing, employee management or payroll, and any other tools you might be using.

Built-In Marketing Engagement

One of the interesting aspects of Square’s platform is its customer engagement tools, the foundation of which is the customer directory. With Square POS, you can keep a record of all your customers, with their name, phone number, email, purchase history, and even card details, if you prefer (and your customers agree to store the card on file). You don’t need to have Square’s loyalty program to activate this feature, and it comes at no charge. It’s a great way to keep notes on regular customers and their preferences, to see who your most loyal customers are and who spends the most money in your store. 

If you’d like to build marketing campaigns to reach out to your regulars, your new customers, or even lapsed customers, Square has the tools built right in, plus all of the data right at your fingertips. Square’s marketing services start at $15/month, which is a pretty reasonable price. The price will scale with your use of the marketing services.

With the marketing tools, you can segment your customer list and target people automatically with offers to get them in the door. So whether you are welcoming a new customer or re-engaging a customer you haven’t seen in a while with a with a special discount, Square lets you tailor your marketing message to people at different spots in the buying journey.

The email tools are simple — you don’t have to understand how to set up multiple campaigns because Square streamlines the creation process for you through prompts. They give you a lot of template designs to choose from and even have some holiday and special occasion suggestions. You can send out a one-time email for a birthday or set up recurring email campaigns that encourage more interaction and more opportunities to buy from you — it all depends on how you want to run your business. 

Finally, when it’s time to review the success of your email campaigns, Square reports show you how many opens and clicks you get, as well as how many people redeem your offer.

Receive & Manage Feedback Privately

The Feedback feature can be helpful if you want a way to take charge of the customer experience and try to eliminate the troubles they encounter. It allows you to personally engage your customers — while keeping everything private. When you enable feedback management, customers who receive digital receipts also receive an invite to provide private feedback about their experience.

You can then resolve any issues between just you and your customer and hopefully make them happier and engaged. The idea behind this is that it is much easier to respond to private feedback than having to keep track of and respond to negative public feedback. Most customers appreciate being acknowledged whether the experience was good or bad, and if you do have an unhappy customer, you can make it right with a full/partial refund or a coupon for a discount on their next purchase. You can check the customer database to see what their purchase history is like and make a determination of the best offer to send. 

Best of all, the feedback management feature is totally free to use!

Square Loyalty Program

Square encourages customer engagement and sales in yet another way — a loyalty program. The pricing structure of Square’s loyalty program is based on the number of loyalty visits, starting at $25/month. Costs automatically adjust with the participation of your customers, and you can always track the success of any program at your dashboard to see if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Square’s loyalty program is very flexible and allows you to tailor rewards to your business and your branding. You can opt for something as simple as a digital punch card, where customers earn a reward after so many purchases, or you can structure a more advanced reward system that allows your customers to collect points and cash in their rewards when they want. You can even let them choose from multiple tiers — they could opt for two lower-tier rewards, or spend all their points on a single higher-tiered reward. 

However you choose to structure your rewards program, you can track the performance on your dashboard. You can see how many customers enroll, how often customers redeem rewards, and how many subsequent repeat visits you’re getting. 

According to Square, customers who join their loyalty programs spend 37% more after they join it. Across the board, loyalty programs continue to work for businesses of every size to encourage repeat business, and we think that it’s definitely worth giving it a try for a while and seeing if it works for your business.

Fully PCI Compliant & Secure

When dealing with credit card processing companies, one of the biggest questions most business owners have has to do with safety and security. You want to know that your data is secure and your customer’s payment information isn’t going to be compromised, because when it all boils down, the burden is on you to make sure that you are PCI compliant. “PCI” is shorthand for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (also sometimes called PCI DSS). No matter how big or small your business is, if you accept credit cards, you have to follow the best practices of the industry when it comes to security — and you can face penalties if you don’t.

To remain secure and compliant for each credit card you take, you have to follow the security guidelines when you swipe, key in, store, or transmit their card data. For starters, data must be encrypted properly at each stage of processing and storage, and each year the standards change.

The whole security and compliance issue can be expensive for the smaller to midsize business, and for some, the issue is intimidating enough that they avoid credit card payments altogether.

The great news is that when Square offers you their product or service, they are taking the burden of PCI compliance on themselves when it comes to their hardware and app. Square is an industry leader in security and compliance. Their team participates on the PCI board itself and has an inside view into the ever-changing world of data security. What that means for you is that when you use Square, you don’t have to jump through any other security hoops — Square maintains PCI compliance and does the work for you. You won’t even need to pay any PCI compliance fees. 

Cost Per Swipe & Getting Started With Square

Getting started with the Square POS app and the reader you will use to swipe your customer’s cards is entirely free. Square continues to remain a favorite among small business owners because they don’t charge sign-on or monthly fees for their free POS reader or app — and they don’t make you sign contracts and punish you with charges if you decide it’s not for you.

If you bring your own smartphone or tablet and combine it with one of Square’s mobile card readers, you’ll pay 2.75% for each swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction. If you opt for one of Square’s all-in-one hardware systems, such as Square Terminal or Square Register, you’ll pay slightly different rates. With Square Terminal, swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions process at 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction.  If you want to know more about all of Square’s different card readers and hardware, check out A Guide to Square’s Credit Card Readers and POS Bundles.

Considering that these are pretty low rates to begin with, and there are so many additional built-in features like dashboard analytics, invoicing, the customer database, and inventory management, we think that is a pretty sweet deal for any grocery store looking to expand.

If you are curious and want to dig even deeper, check out our Square review or visit the Square Point of Sale page and sign up for free to see how it all works for yourself!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

The post Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets And Grocery Stores appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Best CBD Oil Merchant Account Providers

CBD oil

What are CBD oils? Perhaps you’ve heard of this new class of products, and you’re curious about what they are and what benefits they can offer you. Maybe you’re also interested in opening a business that sells CBD-derived products, and you’d like to know more about the special requirements you’ll need to meet in order to be successful. Well, we’re here to help! Cannabidiol (or CBD) is a substance (or phytocannabinoid, to be more precise) that’s derived from hemp (Cannabis sativa) plants.

Now, you’re probably already aware that marijuana is also derived from Cannabis plants. The major difference between CBD products and marijuana is that the former contain little or no THC or any of the other psychoactive ingredients that marijuana contains. In other words, CBD products won’t get you “high.” Despite this rather obvious distinction, CBD-based products have been illegal under Federal law until very recently. In fact, as of the time of this writing, they’re only legal under certain specific conditions.

Although medical marijuana and, by extension, CBD products are now legal in many US states, most banks and credit card processors have been extremely reluctant to approve CBD oil businesses for merchant accounts, and many such businesses have had their accounts suddenly closed without notice. In this article, we’ll update you on the current (as of January 2019) legal status of CBD products and recommend several merchant account providers that accept businesses selling CBD products.

Legal Issues In The CBD Oil Industry

Until just a few weeks ago, CBD-based products were still listed as Schedule I drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), effectively prohibiting their sale, transportation, or use under Federal law. However, many states (33 as of this writing) have passed medical marijuana laws which legalized the use of marijuana and CBD-based products for medicinal purposes. Several other states have gone even further, legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and removing all prohibitions against CBD-based products.

The recently-passed 2018 Farm Bill changes all of that. Under this legislation, which was signed into law on December 20, 2018, hemp-based products (defined as containing less than 0.3% THC) are now removed from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. However, you must be a licensed grower and comply with all applicable Federal and state laws to produce and sell your product legally. With so many variations in state laws, it’s well beyond the scope of this article to attempt to cover them all. We recommend that you look into the laws of your state and consult with an attorney or qualified consultant to determine the specific requirements that apply to your business.

Needless to say, selling a product that can potentially still be illegal under Federal law makes it very difficult to get approved for a merchant account. Only a small number of high-risk specialists accept CBD businesses, and in many cases, they’ll require you to obtain an offshore merchant account. Of the small number of providers that do accept CBD merchants, there are only a few that we feel comfortable recommending, and we’ll profile them below. Desperate CBD merchants have tried using PayPal or Square (see our review), but this strategy inevitably involves being dishonest about the nature of your business, and providers won’t hesitate to shut you down if and when they catch you.

Before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered it illegal to sell or transport CBD products across state lines. This made it nearly impossible to sell CBD products legally through a website, and many eCommerce-focused high-risk providers were reluctant to accept CBD merchants. The new law eases many of these concerns, so we anticipate that the opportunities for CBD merchants to obtain a merchant account will improve dramatically in the coming year. In the past, we’ve seen reports of banks and credit card processors suddenly deciding to shut down accounts en masse, leaving many CBD merchants in the lurch. This situation should improve considerably with the recent legalization of hemp-based products.

For the time being, we’re going to confine our recommendations to processors that we know already accept CBD merchants and that have a strong reputation for providing fair prices and honest service. As legal limitations on CBD products continue to be rolled back, CBD merchants should find expanded opportunities to get approved for merchant accounts. At the same time, you can still expect to be assigned a high-risk merchant account for now. Until the day arrives when CBD products are fully legalized in all 50 states, we don’t anticipate that low-risk merchant accounts will become available.

What Makes A Good High-Risk Merchant Account Provider?

Finding a good high-risk merchant account provider involves the same criteria as a low-risk provider – it’s just harder to find a provider that offers the right combination of reasonable prices, fair contract terms, and high-quality customer service.

  • Pricing: The bottom line here is that any high-risk merchant account is going to cost significantly more than a comparable low-risk one. Be prepared to have to accept a tiered pricing model (although some established businesses might be able to negotiate a more affordable interchange-plus model). You can also expect to be charged higher monthly and annual fees as well, although the difference in these costs isn’t as much as it is with processing rates. Another additional “expense” that most high-risk merchants have to contend with is a rolling reserve, where your processor withholds a certain percentage of your funds every month until the reserve is met. While you’ll eventually receive all your money, rolling reserves can create serious cash flow problems for a small or newly-established business.
  • Contracts: We really like month-to-month billing arrangements that don’t lock you into a long-term contract or force you to pay an early termination fee (ETF) if you close your account early. Unfortunately, CBD merchants (like any other high-risk merchants) will usually have to accept both a long-term contract (typically for three years) and an ETF. Also, be aware that if you have a long-term contract, it will probably also include an automatic renewal clause that extends your contract, typically for one-year periods at a time. If you don’t keep careful track of when your contract is scheduled to auto-renew, you might find yourself locked in for another year or longer.
  • Hardware: If you plan to sell CBD products out of a retail location, you’ll need either a dedicated countertop credit card terminal or a mobile processing system that uses your smartphone or tablet in conjunction with a mobile card reader. Your terminal should be able to accept both magstripe and EMV payments at a minimum, and we also recommend that you consider getting a terminal with NFC-based capabilities so that you can take payment methods such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. For some specific recommendations, check out our article, The Best Credit Card Machines And Terminals. We also highly recommend that you purchase your terminals outright rather than leasing your equipment. Leasing arrangements lock you into noncancelable long-term contracts, and you’ll wind up paying several times more in leasing fees than what your machine is actually worth.
  • eCommerce Support: Naturally, you’ll want to be able to sell your CBD products to as many customers as possible, and selling via a website allows you to do that. As we’ve noted above, there are still some significant restrictions on selling CBD products across state lines that you’ll want to be aware of before you launch your website. At the same time, the recent legalization of hemp-based products is going to open up eCommerce opportunities that weren’t there just a few months ago. All of our recommended providers can set you up with a high-quality payment gateway that will allow you to process transactions over the internet and significantly expand the reach of your business. As not all states have relaxed their marijuana laws, you’ll want to find a gateway that will automatically filter out customer addresses where CBD products are still illegal.
  • Customer Support: In researching dozens of merchant account providers, we’ve found that high-quality customer service is the true “secret ingredient” that separates the merely average providers from the truly outstanding ones. Customer support issues occur more frequently with CBD and other high-risk merchants, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to a provider’s reputation in this area.

Best Merchant Account Providers For CBD Oil

With the above factors in mind, here’s a brief overview of five of the best merchant account providers in the industry that accept CBD merchants:

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

Easy Pay Direct is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has been in business since 2000. The company provides merchant accounts for both low-risk and high-risk businesses, and is one of the few providers to advertise service for CBD merchants. The company’s primary product is their proprietary EPD Gateway. While you’ll have to pay a premium in terms of processing rates and account fees, you’ll be set up with a domestic bank or credit card processor. They’re also one of the very few CBD providers to disclose their rates and fees on their website.

You will probably have to pay a $99 account setup fee to get started. While we normally don’t approve of this kind of fee, it’s appropriate in this case given the more extensive effort required to underwrite a CBD account. Processing rates start at a flat 3.95% + $0.25 per transaction, although lower rates are available if your business meets certain monthly processing volume limits. There’s also a $29.99 monthly account fee, but this appears to include the use of the EPD Gateway. You can also expect a standard contract with a three-year initial term that automatically renews for one-year periods after that. One very positive feature about Easy Pay Direct’s contracts is that they do not have an early termination fee, even for high-risk businesses. While this isn’t quite the same thing as true month-to-month billing, it does make it much easier to close your account without penalty if you have to.

One helpful feature offered by Easy Pay Direct is called load balancing, where a business can divide its incoming funds among multiple merchant accounts. This is particularly helpful for high-risk businesses that often exceed the monthly processing volume limits imposed by the processor underwriting their account. Just be aware that you’ll usually have to pay separate monthly fees for each account, so it might not be cost-effective for some merchants. Also, be aware that you might not need this feature if you opt for an offshore account. Underwriting guidelines in some (but by no means all) foreign countries are more relaxed than they are in the United States, and you might not have a monthly processing limit imposed on your account at all.

Although Easy Pay Direct doesn’t get as much attention as other, better-known processors, it’s a solid choice for merchants selling CBD products. We particularly recommend the company for eCommerce merchants due to the robust feature set of their EPD Gateway.

Pros

  • No early termination fee
  • Load balancing feature allows higher monthly processing limits
  • High-quality proprietary payment gateway

Cons

  • $99 account setup fee
  • Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause

Check out our full review of Easy Pay Direct for more information.

SMB Global

SMB Global logo

SMB Global is a new high-risk provider that was spun off from one of our favorite providers, Payline Data, in 2016. Headquartered in South Jordan, Utah, the company specializes in providing merchant accounts to high-risk and offshore businesses. Using a variety of backend processors, they’re able to approve a merchant account for almost any high-risk business, including those selling CBD oils. They have an excellent reputation for fair prices and top-notch customer service.

As a newly-established business, SMB Global is still a little rough around the edges, lacking a mobile processing system and credit card terminals for retail merchants. At the same time, they offer a full range of services for eCommerce merchants, including a choice between the NMI Gateway and Authorize.Net (see our review).

Because they work with so many banks and processors to get you approved for an account, the company doesn’t offer any specific pricing information. Processing rates, account fees, and contract terms will all vary widely depending on which backend processor is handling your account. While we highly recommend that you request an interchange-plus pricing plan, be prepared to have to accept a tiered plan instead, particularly if you haven’t been in business for very long. Likewise, you can also expect to have a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee if you close your account early. As a CBD oil merchant, you should be prepared to have a rolling reserve included in your account agreement.

SMB Global requires a minimum processing volume of $50,000 per month for an offshore merchant account, which can present a formidable barrier to a newly-established CBD business. The company will occasionally waive this requirement if your business has a very strong financial history. Offshore accounts support multi-currency processing, allowing you to avoid cross-border fees. They also feature dynamic currency conversion, letting your customers pay in either their local currency or the currency in which you bill them. SMB Global appears to accept CBD merchants only through offshore accounts at this time, although this could change quickly with the recent deregulation of hemp-based products.

Pros

  • Accepts CBD businesses through offshore merchant accounts
  • Reasonable pricing and contract terms
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Requires minimum $50,000 monthly processing volume for offshore account
  • No mobile processing system at this time
  • No information available about credit card terminals or POS systems

For a more detailed look at SMB Global, be sure to check out our full review.

PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud review logo

PaymentCloud is headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California, and has been in business since 2010. The company specializes in placing high-risk businesses (including CBD oil merchants), relying on a network of third-party processors and acquiring banks both in the United States and offshore to get you approved for an account. While they can’t place every merchant for one reason or another, they have a higher success rate than many of their competitors in getting merchants approved for an account. Best of all, they do the extra work required to accept a high-risk account without charging you any application or account setup fees.

Like almost all high-risk specialists, the company doesn’t disclose its processing rates or account fees, so you’ll have to get a quote from their sales team and do a little negotiating to see how their offer stacks up against other providers. For retail merchants, they’ve de-emphasized expensive credit card terminal leases and now offer a “free” EMV-compliant terminal with each account. Note that in this case, “free” means you’re free to use it for as long as you maintain your account, not that you can keep it even if you later close your account or switch providers. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty good deal if you’re a small CBD business owner who only needs one terminal.

PaymentCloud also offers Authorize.Net as their payment gateway, although their system is compatible with other third-party gateways as well. Additionally, they provide a free virtual terminal with each account. While their line-up of products and services isn’t as robust as some other providers, they offer all the essentials you’ll need for a small or medium-sized CBD oil business.

The company doesn’t have a BBB profile, and we’ve found almost no complaints against them on the internet. Feedback from our readers has been overwhelmingly positive – something that’s quite rare in the processing world.

Lastly, PaymentCloud is now recommended by one of our favorite low-risk providers, Dharma Merchant Services (see our review). Dharma recently decided to stop accepting high-risk merchants themselves, and now refers inquiries from businesses in the high-risk category to PaymentCloud. To us, a recommendation from a company as highly respected as Dharma carries a lot of weight, and we give PaymentCloud a strong endorsement as well.

Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • “Free” credit card terminal with each retail account
  • Dedicated account manager for customer support

Cons

  • May require offshore account for CBD merchants
  • No online knowledgebase

Be sure to read our full review of PaymentCloud for more details.

eMerchant Broker

eMerchantBroker logo

Los Angeles, California-based eMerchant Broker has been in business since 2011 and is one of the few reputable high-risk merchant account providers that was deliberately marketing to the CBD oil industry before the recent deregulation of hemp products. Although the company has a reputation for charging above-average processing rates and account fees, we’re very impressed with their efforts to educate CBD oil merchants on the ins and outs of high-risk processing. Many CBD merchants are also new to running a business, so the information that eMerchant Broker provides, particularly about chargebacks, is very educational. Even if you don’t sign up with them, we highly recommend that you take a look at the eMerchant Broker website for detailed information about high-risk processing in general, as well as specific issues unique to the CBD oil industry.

eMerchant Broker offers a reasonable lineup of products and services that you’ll need in addition to a high-risk merchant account. Their proprietary eMB Payment Gateway offers an impressive set of features, and they also support Authorize.Net and other popular third-party gateways. The company mainly supports eCommerce and doesn’t appear to offer any credit card terminals or mobile processing systems. They should, however, be able to integrate their processing system with third-party products if you need them.

Don’t expect to save money with eMerchant Broker. They appear to mainly use tiered pricing plans, although interchange-plus pricing might be available to some merchants. The only rate they advertise – 2.99% — represents the lowest available qualified rate. In most cases, your actual rate will be much higher. You can also expect to be saddled with a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee. Fortunately, they don’t charge application fees, setup fees, or annual fees. Be sure to review your contract thoroughly before signing up, so you’re clear on the assortment of fees you will have to pay.

eMerchant Broker has a good reputation with the BBB and a low complaint volume. Reports from our readers have been mixed, with some praise for their ethical, well-trained sales staff, and some criticism for their customer service department. All in all, eMerchant Broker rates as an above-average high-risk provider, and we’re comfortable recommending them for your CBD oil business.

Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • No annual fee
  • Good sales practices

Cons

  • Expensive tiered pricing processing rate plans
  • Long-term contract with early termination fee
  • Some complaints about customer service

For more information about eMerchant Broker, check out our full review.

PayWize

PayWize logo

Another company you should consider in your search for a CBD oil merchant account provider is PayWize. This very small provider is based in Costa Mesa, California and has only been in business since 2017. However, they’re affiliated with Payment Depot (see our review), one of our top choices for low-risk businesses.

At the moment, PayWize offers just a simple, one-page website. However, it does include some significant disclosures that help to set it apart from other high-risk providers. The company markets primarily to medical marijuana dispensaries and CBD oil merchants, so they have more specialized knowledge of the unique issues affecting this industry than many of their competitors.

PayWize offers predictable flat-rate pricing, although they don’t disclose specific rates. Flat-rate pricing is popular among merchants who want to always know in advance how much they’ll pay to process a transaction. At the same time, this pricing model can become very expensive for a large business that has a high monthly processing volume (typically over $5,000 per month). The company also claims not to impose any rolling reserves, which is a real plus for a business that’s just starting up. PayWize offers several credit card terminals and a payment gateway, but discloses very little information about them. Their gateway integrates with a large number of popular online shopping carts, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and many others.

We haven’t produced a full review of PayWize yet, but based on their association with Payment Depot, we’re willing to recommend that you check them out and compare what they have to offer against any quotes from other providers that you obtain.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Appears to offer month-to-month billing
  • Extensive compatibility with third-party online shopping carts

Cons

  • New company with little online feedback from merchants

Final Thoughts

With the very recent deregulation of hemp products by the Federal government, 2019 is shaping up to be a breakout year for the CBD oil industry. Your chances of getting approved for a merchant account have never been better, and it should get even easier as acquiring banks and credit card processors adjust their underwriting guidelines to reflect the diminished risk associated with CBD oils – and cash in on a booming new industry. At the same time, we don’t expect that CBD oils will be treated as a low-risk business any time soon. With products such as diet pills and nutritional supplements still firmly in the high-risk “nutraceutical” category, CBD merchants can expect to have to pay the extra cost of maintaining a high-risk merchant account for the foreseeable future. The only way we see this situation changing is if the Food and Drug Administration ever formally backs up the claims CBD merchants make as to the medicinal value of their products.

In addition to opening the floodgates so more high-risk merchant account providers can accept CBD merchants, the recent deregulation should make it easier to obtain a domestic merchant account rather than having to take on the additional risk and expense of an offshore account. Unless you specifically need to get around monthly processing limits imposed by your provider for a domestic account, we don’t recommend offshore accounts. The added expense and the risk that you might never receive your funds make them a poor choice for most merchants. However, if you do need an offshore account, check out our article The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers for some recommendations.

Of the five providers we’ve covered in this article, Easy Pay Direct and SMB Global have the best overall reputations for fair pricing and quality service. However, we recommend that you obtain quotes from several providers and compare them closely before deciding which one to sign up with. Also, remember that the CBD oil industry is changing very rapidly now, so there inevitably will be more providers offering merchant accounts to CBD merchants in the coming years than just the ones we’ve profiled here. Finally, if you’re a CBD oil merchant and have had any experience working with the companies listed in this article – or other providers – be sure to tell us about your experience in the Comments section below. Thanks!

The post The Best CBD Oil Merchant Account Providers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for building your online store can be tough. I find it helpful to keep in mind that shopping for this type of software is similar to shopping for any other product (you just happen to be shopping for shopping cart software, which I’ll grant is slightly strange). You ultimately need your ecommerce software to do two primary things: to serve your particular online selling needs, and to accomplish this for an affordable price.

If you’ve heard of any ecommerce software up to this point, you’ve probably heard of a platform called Shopify. Shopify often receives top billing in this category, and with good reason. Still, it’s by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Along with Shopify, we’ve compiled a few other great options worth considering in your search for an online home for your store.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

From a bird’s-eye view, our main reasons for recommending these platforms are user-friendliness, a solid feature set, and an accessible price. Notice that they’re also all SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, meaning you are not responsible for downloading, installing, and hosting the shopping cart on your own server. Instead, you subscribe to the service (most often for a monthly fee), and all the hosting and software updates that underpin your online store are automatically handled for you. Easy! eCommerce software has been trending in this direction over the past several years, and the available SaaS options have only become more robust and customizable over time.

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

Before we discuss the individual recommendations further, here’s a quick overview of the key factors we consider when evaluating ecommerce software:

  • Pricing: How does the monthly subscription system work (what factors determine the different pricing levels), and what are the options/costs associated with accepting payments from shoppers?
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set of the software, and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for ecommerce beginners (particularly those without any coding experience)? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the available theme templates for designing storefronts? What customization options are available, and how robust/flexible are these tools?
  • Customer Support: What is the availability and quality of email, live chat, and phone support for the software, along with any other self-help resources provided by the company and user community?

And, of course…

  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

That’s our basic guideline. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each platform, highlighting the main benefits and drawbacks of each one, along with the types of online sellers we think the software typically suits best. We’d definitely recommend reading our full review of each platform before making your final choice. We’ve also posted one-on-one comparisons for several of the platforms if you’d like to check out those in-depth articles as well.

1. Shopify

As mentioned, Shopify is our most commonly recommended ecommerce platform. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high ease-of-use put Shopify at or near the top of most SaaS ecommerce platform rankings.

Pricing

There are technically five Shopify plans, but the three subscription levels in the middle are considered the standard options for most SMB owners needing an online store. The price jumps between the three middle plans are based primarily on additional features and the ability to set up more staff accounts. Here are all five levels:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/mo. Embeddable cart, but no standalone store website.
  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo.
  • Shopify: $79/mo.
  • Advanced Shopify: 299/mo.
  • Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

When it comes to accepting payment from your customers, you should note that this is the only platform on our list that charges an extra commission per sale. This goes above and beyond the normal processing fees you’ll need to pay to your credit card processor. Shopify’s commission decreases incrementally as you climb the subscription ladder: 2% on Basic, 1% on Shopify, 0.5% on Advanced.

You can avoid these extra Shopify transaction fees if you sign up for the in-house payment processor — Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) — but this gateway is only available in 10 countries. In addition to eliminating the extra transaction fee, Shopify struck a deal with Stripe to offer lower payment processing fees with Shopify Payments than if you were to use Stripe (or a similar processor) by itself. These discounts apply to your processing if you’re on the Shopify Plan or the Advanced Shopify Plan.

Shopify does provide over 100 alternative gateway options. You’ll just be saddled with that extra percentage Shopify charges per sale when you stray from Shopify Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

Shopify is defined by a quality core feature set that works well for a wide variety of sellers. Moreover, Shopify has a very large app marketplace (of around 2500 apps) that will provide virtually any additional feature you might need. If there is one disadvantage to this system, it is that these integrations can add to your monthly operating costs. Meanwhile, merchants appreciate how many of Shopify’s third-party apps are fully-fledged software platforms that are commonly used to support ecommerce, rather than just simple extensions that add a small feature or two (the app store does have those as well, though!)

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards

Ease Of Use

Shopify has one of the easiest learning curves in the ecommerce software market. Simplicity is the name of the game for Shopify — it’s clear they’d rather offer the ability to expand the platform’s capability with optional add-ons than to overwhelm the newbie with a complicated dashboard or intricate customization options from the get-go.

The Shopify dashboard is clear and well-organized, and any built-in feature can be manipulated easily with zero coding knowledge.

Web Design

Shopify offers 10 free themes (made by Shopify), as well as 67 paid themes (made by third-parties) that range in price from $140-$180. Technically, the total theme count is a bit higher, because each theme has multiple style variations that swap out colors and whatnot. Shopify themes are some of the more elegant and functional options we’ve seen. As a nice bonus, the theme marketplace can be searched by desired theme features.

While the Shopify theme editor may not be as flexible as that of a top-notch website builder (like Wix), the drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to stack and rearrange page elements, called “Sections.” (Perhaps don’t go quite as far as I did with awkward colors and fonts — just showing you what can be changed):

Beyond the theme editor, you also have the opportunity for more customization with a combination of HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own theme templating language (called Liquid). Most novices won’t open that coding can of worms straight away, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all subscription levels. Although no customer support system is perfect, we’ve found Shopify’s responses helpful and timely in the grand scheme. On top of this, the strong community of users and developers currently working with Shopify makes finding resources, reviews, and feedback a breeze. The library of self-help articles, tutorials, courses, and videos produced by Shopify is also impressive.

Who Is Shopify Best For?

If this were a little kids’ recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the full MVP as well. Shopify is suited to the widest variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well. Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 10 countries in which Shopify Payments is available, because that’s the only way Shopify’s extra commission per sale is avoided. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t (or won’t) use Shopify Payments.

Of course, we can’t mention Shopify without also mentioning one type of merchant in particular: dropshippers. Shopify is definitely the dropshipper’s go-to platform.

2. BigCommerce

If you asked most experts at large, they’d probably tell you that BigCommerce is Shopify’s most direct ecommerce SaaS competitor. BigCommerce also has an enterprise solution (BigCommerce Enterprise) that’s comparable with Shopify Plus.

Pricing

Subscription levels with BigCommerce are organized by added features at each level, but also annual revenue caps. This means you’re automatically bumped to a higher subscription once you reach a cap. Here are the plans and their associated sales limits:

  • Standard: $29.95/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79.95/month (sell up to $150K/yr.)
  • Pro: $249.95/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
    • add $150/mo. for every additional $200K/yr. in sales, up to $3M
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing

Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options. One of these is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Features & Add-Ons

BigCommerce has a particularly strong set of native features, while also maintaining a sizable app marketplace for optional add-ons (ballpark 600 in total). The balance of out-of-the-box features versus add-on apps leans more toward the former, especially when compared to Shopify. Offered features include:

  • Faceted (filtered) search
  • Single-page checkout
  • Customer groups & segmentation
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Up to 600 product options/variants
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Square POS integration

Ease Of Use

Some may argue that the balance toward more features included from the get-go can make BigCommerce harder to use at first. Personally, I wouldn’t let fears about user-friendliness stop a beginner from using this software. Extensive out-of-the-box features don’t complicate BigCommerce dashboard beyond reason, and the included features are intuitively configurable without any coding knowledge.

Web Design

BigCommerce offers around 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. Quality of design is always subjective, but BigCommerce definitely has a wide variety of elegant templates from which to choose.

It’s a good thing this variety and quality of templates pre-exists, because customization options without coding knowledge or adding a separate integration are somewhat limited with BigCommerce. The theme editor lacks a drag-and-drop element, and you’ll be stuck with the theme’s fonts and colors for the most part.

Customer Support

Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels. We’ve had mixed experiences with BigCommerce’s support, but find that more users praise the service than knock it. You can definitely make the argument (and we have) that BigCommerce support is just as good or better than Shopify’s. There are also active community forums and plenty of BigCommerce-produced support materials available online.

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

The target market for BigCommerce overlaps significantly with Shopify’s. Much of your decision will come down to the appeal and specific fit-to-business of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce at your targeted subscription level. For example, I think B2B and wholesale merchants would do well to take close look at BigCommerce’s feature set. Support for more product variants or discount types will be interesting to other sellers. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could definitely end up saving money and headaches. You’ll just need to be prepared for the automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal for BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor with no penalty of an extra transaction fee. That extra cut Shopify takes from your sales feels especially unfair if you’re not even based in one of the 10 countries where Shopify Payments is supported.

By the same token, maybe you already have a merchant account and/or payment processor that you like, or are looking for a specialized payment processor for your particular sales volume and/or risk profile. We often recommend merchants processing over around $100K per year look into credit card processors that offer your own dedicated merchant account with interchange-plus pricing. These accounts can provide more transparency and account stability (and often cost savings) than a standard flat-rate processor like Shopify Payments, PayPal or Square. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

This platform has been around longer than any other on our list, and I’d actually heard of it before I’d even heard of Shopify. Over the years, 3dcart has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when opening an online store.

Pricing

Subscription packages with 3dcart are delineated mainly by annual online revenue, number of staff accounts, and available features. You can sell up to 100 products on the Startup plan, while the other plans allow you to list unlimited items.

  • Startup: $19/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Basic: $29/month (sell up to $100K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79/month (sell up to $200K/yr.)
  • Pro: $229/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
  • Enterprise: Custom

3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than BigCommerce or Shopify (if you exclude the Shopify Lite plan that doesn’t let you build a standalone store website). At the same time, the $29 plan level with 3dcart accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce.

On top of this, 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale, regardless which of the over 160 compatible payment gateways you select. For US merchants, there also are several “preferred” processor options (e.g., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and FattMerchant) that may give you access to discounted processing rates at the Plus and Pro subscription level.

Features & Add-Ons

3dcart prides itself on a rich supply of native, built-in features. We can vouch that the feature set is robust, especially for the price. And, while it’s true that 3dcart has managed to avoid some of the excessive “app creep” from which Shopify suffers, you can still connect with lots of useful third-party software via the app store.

We’ve mentioned that packed-in features can result in sacrificed user-friendliness. 3dcart keeps some of its complexity at bay by offering advanced features and modules that can simply be turned on and off depending on whether you need them.

Here are just a few of 3dcart’s noteworthy features:

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Single-page checkout
  • Robust discount/coupon engine
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Create/print shipping labels in-dashboard
  • Gift certificates on all plans
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Customer reviews & product Q&A
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Waiting list & pre-orders

Ease Of Use

When it comes to actually working with all of 3dcart’s plentiful features, we’re still looking at a user-friendly platform overall. You should just be aware that the learning curve you encounter may be slightly steeper than it is for Shopify (and perhaps BigCommerce as well) depending on your experience.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, 3dcart simply requires you put in a bit more effort in order to get more out of it in the end. The menus go a little deeper, the dashboard screens are more complex, and some advanced functions can be a little tricky to locate and use at first. Still, the basic setup and navigation are comparable to the ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far. You won’t need coding knowledge to operate your store.

Web Design

3dcart recently streamlined its entire theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. The revamp brought 3dcart into better stylistic alignment with the ecommerce competitors we’ve discussed so far, but we’re still missing a bit of variety and uniqueness amongst the remaining options.

Of the 45 total themes available, about half are free, and more than half were created by 3dcart. Premium themes range from $149-$249.

With 3dcart, you get a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements:

Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor:

Customer Support

Another key reason 3dcart makes our “best” list is the availability of 24/7 phone, live chat, email support. The only subscription that doesn’t offer phone support is the $19/month plan, but you still have the ability to talk to someone in real time with live chat. Support quality and responsiveness receive mixed reviews, but this is typical of all the software apps on our list. No ecommerce solution has cracked the code for keeping 100% of customers satisfied, but we’ll let you know if any of them do!

You’ll also have access to plenty of online resources produced by 3dcart, as well as an active community forum. Just note that while the knowledgebase articles are helpful, they’re sometimes low on screenshots and high on text.

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small-to-midsize businesses owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. If you’ve experimented with Shopify or BigCommerce and felt a little boxed in when it came to flexibility and customization, and as long as you’re not intimidated by a relatively detail-oriented system, 3dcart opens up options for you. Or, if you’re skeptical of jumping on the Shopify bandwagon just because “everybody’s doing it,” and you balk at feeling hemmed into Shopify Payments lest you pay a penalty, 3dcart may be just the alternative you seek. Not to mention, we appreciate your Maverick spirit!

3dcart has a tried-and-true and even somewhat old school vibe, but without feeling clunky or inflexible. It has managed to stick around amongst an onslaught of newer competitors by quietly improving the quantity and quality of its core offerings over time. Meanwhile, you can still add on plenty of extra features via the app market, or do a bit of template tinkering on your own with basic coding knowledge.

4. Ecwid

Ecwid diverges the most from the software options we’ve discussed so far. At its core, Ecwid is an ecommerce shopping cart plugin (or “widget,” as the name implies) you can embed into an existing website. In this way, Ecwid is similar to WordPress’ WooCommerce, except you can add Ecwid to any website, not just WordPress sites. Ecwid also allows you to create a very basic standalone website and sell up to 10 products — for free! The company claims over 1.5 million users, which is significantly more than Shopify’s 600,ooo. The availability of a free plan likely has a lot to do with that!

Pricing

Subscription levels are organized by several aspects: available features, number of listed products, file storage, customer service access, and number of staff accounts. We’ve described the details of each level in our main Ecwid review, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Free: $0/mo. (10 Products)
  • Venture: $15/mo. (100 Products)
  • Business: $35/mo. (2500 Products)
  • Unlimited: $99/mo. (Unlimited products)

Happily, Ecwid does not charge an additional commission per sale. Along with offering around 50 payment gateway options for your store, Ecwid also has a special partnership with a payments provider called WePay. Together, they created Ecwid Payments, which offers discounted payment processing rates for merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. And, if you accept ACH or direct bank payments at your store (which is cheaper than accepting credit cards), you also qualify for discounted rates on those transactions with Ecwid Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

With Ecwid’s freemium pricing model, you can expect several new features unlocked at each subscription level. The free plan will definitely get you started with a small online store, but we don’t see most serious sellers staying on this plan for long. Fairly basic features such as inventory management, discounts, SEO tools, and access to the Ecwid app store require a paid plan. The Ecwid app store is on the smaller side, but you’ll still find several ecommerce staples in the shipping, tax, and accounting categories. And, don’t forget that if you’re embedding the Ecwid shop widget into another website, you’ll have access to that sitebuilder’s integrations as well.

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

  • Create & edit orders
  • Several POS integration options, including mobile POS
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Branded shopping app for your store
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Wholesale pricing groups
  • Mobile store management app

Ease Of Use

Intuitive dashboard navigation and foolproof feature manipulation make Ecwid an extremely user-friendly platform. Ecwid’s ease of use closely rivals Shopify’s. The Ecwid backend was clearly designed with the ecommerce beginner in mind.

Web Design

Remember that Ecwid’s main purpose is to act as a shopping cart plugin for an existing website that already has an established look and feel. That said, Ecwid does provide one theme template for a standalone online store. Here’s my in-progress edit of the starter template:

There aren’t a lot of customizations you can make to this starter website besides adding your own main image, your store name, and your 10 products. If your store is embedded into an existing website, you can purchase a third-party theme that helps your shop tie in with the rest of the site. Basically, unless you’re using the Ecwid Starter Site, web design for your storefront is largely dependent upon whatever existing sitebuilder you’re using.

Customer Support

Availability of customer support with Ecwid depends on which plan you have:

  • Free: Email only
  • Venture: Email & live chat
  • Business: Email, live chat, & phone; 2 hours of custom development (annual plan)
  • Unlimited: Email, live chat, & priority phone support; 12 hours of custom development (annual plan)

Also, note that email and live chat are not open on the weekends, and phone support is on a callback system. Despite these limitations, most users rate the actual quality of Ecwid’s support quite highly. Knowledgebase articles and video tutorials are also good quality.

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

Generally, we think Ecwid is a great option for small-to-midsize sellers. We highly recommend Ecwid for newcomers to online selling — particularly those with an established online presence who simply need to add a store component. If you love the platform your current website is built upon, and you’re already nailing your brand’s image and following, there may be no need to rush off and migrate to an all-in-one “website + ecommerce” system like the ones we’ve covered so far.

If you don’t have a website but would like to dabble in selling a few products online, you could also get an Ecwid starter site going for free while you develop a full-blown website on the side. It’s hard to argue with free! If you’re really on a shoestring budget or you’re just starting out with ecommerce, I’d encourage you to compare Ecwid’s free plan to Shopify Lite (at $9/mo.) to see which system might work best for your needs.

5. Wix

So, Ecwid built an ecommerce shopping cart widget that goes inside other website builders, but Wix is a website builder that actually built its own ecommerce widget (called Wix Stores) to go inside itself. I know, it’s a bit confusing! The point is that Wix began as a traditional sitebuilder, but now has ecommerce capability built in as well. Combining new ecommerce tools with its existing popularity in the no-coding-required-website-design niche, Wix presents quite an attractive (both figuratively and literally) option for online sellers.

Pricing

You may have heard that Wix lets you create a website for free. While this is true, you need a paid plan to use Wix’s ecommerce features. Below are your ecommerce subscription options, defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included:

  • Business Basic: $25/month (20GB storage)
  • Business Unlimited: $30/month (35GB storage)
  • Business VIP: $40/month (50GB storage)

We’ve listed the true month-to-month price here, even though Wix advertises its monthly price if you pay for a full year. This drops the prices to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. All of the other platforms we’ve highlighted also offer discounts when paying annually — Wix just leads with these discounted figures in its advertising.

Regardless of which payment processor you choose (there are currently close to 20 options), Wix never charges an extra commission per sale.

Features & Add-Ons

If you choose to build an ecommerce website with Wix from scratch, the core of your site will be built upon the Wix Stores app. If, however, you already have a different type of Wix website (e.g., restaurant, hotel, photography site, etc.) and want to add an online shop, you simply switch to a Business subscription plan and add the Wix Stores app to your dashboard.

Wix is still working on adding some features that are becoming more standard amongst ecommerce platforms (like abandoned cart recovery), but we like a lot of what it has on offer so far:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • Checkout on your own domain
  • SEO Tools
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Inventory & order management
  • Library of stock photos for your site

The Wix app marketplace includes hundreds of apps, but not all are ecommerce-specific. You may also notice limited pre-built connections to third-party integrations (shipping and accounting software, for example). These sorts of apps become more indispensable as a store grows, but are not as critical for a store that manages fewer products and orders.

Ease Of Use

Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other ecommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature (like adding a product or creating a coupon). Wix is defined in the DIY web design market by its ease-of-use, and this extends to its ecommerce functionality as well.

Web Design

There are actually two ways to design an ecommerce storefront in Wix. The first begins in a familiar fashion — selecting a template.

Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, with over 70 of these already built upon the Wix Stores app (although you can easily add the app to any template). A nice perk of Wix’s template system is that all are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. The only tricky part is that you can’t switch templates once get your store up and running!

Wix provides the most flexible no-coding-required theme editor of any ecommerce platform we’ve covered here. Rather than simply dragging and dropping elements up and down your pages, you can adjust and place page elements virtually anywhere.

The second (and even easier) method of creating an ecommerce website with Wix is via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). If you choose this option, you’ll be asked a series of detailed questions about your business, and Wix will use this information to draft a storefront for you.

Sites created with Wix ADI also have a theme editor available, but this editor’s flexibility is more limited than the standard WIX editor. Nevertheless, it’s comparable to Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor. You can stack and arrange elements up and down your pages.

If you decide you’d like to micromanage your design a bit more after creating your Wix ADI site, you’re welcome to switch over to the more advanced theme editor. You just can’t switch back to Wix ADI without losing your changes.

Customer Support

Here’s a quick rundown of Wix’s customer support channels:

  • Phone: Callback service open Monday-Friday, 5AM-5PM Pacific
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: None

As you can see, the phone channel is somewhat limited, but we like that you have access to this channel of support on all plans. The Business VIP plan also offers priority support, meaning your emails and callback requests jump to the front of the queue. Wix doesn’t have as thorough a set of self-help resources specifically for ecommerce as some of the other platforms, but the resources it does maintain are well done and useful.

Who is Wix Best For?

Wix may differ from the other ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed, but we see this variety as a very good thing. This platform is a great option for merchants who need a multifunctional (but still user-friendly) website — not just an online store. The way native apps like Wix Stores, Wix Bookings, Wix Restaurants, Wix Hotels, and others weave together to form a seamless dashboard on the backend, plus an elegant web presence on the front end, is really slick.

Speaking of elegance, the other (sometimes overlapping) group of store owners Wix works nicely for are those with a smaller number of visually-detailed products. You’re probably not going to want to run a massive fulfillment and shipping operation with Wix, but small shops with aesthetic priorities are perfect for Wix.

Quick Pricing Comparison

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison of these five good options for building an online store. Before we wrap this baby up, let’s recap the subscription plans for each one, along with the main ways the levels are distinguished from one another. As you’ve clearly seen, pricing is just one component of your final choice, but it’s usually where people start.

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

  • Available features
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Payment processing discounts
  • Shopify’s commission per sale

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue
  • Number of products
  • Number of staff accounts

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

  • Available features
  • Number of products
  • Storage
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Customer service

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

Did you find your ecommerce match? We know it’s a lot to take in at once. The great news is that all of these platforms allow you to test the software before you buy. We’d suggest narrowing down our five suggestions to a couple that look like strong candidates for your store and starting a free trial of each. Test drive all the features you possibly can, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll know which is the best fit, even with our attempts to simplify the decision-making process for you.

Generally speaking, the first three platforms we mentioned (Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart) are quite similar and will work for a lot of the same types and sizes of stores. 3dcart is probably the most complicated and detailed of the three out-of-the-box, and typically requires a bit more out of the user. This is not necessarily bad, though. BigCommerce may be a good middle ground between 3dcart and Shopify, combining ease-of-use with a dense set of out-of-the-box features. And, even with Shopify’s super annoying transaction fees (if you don’t use Shopify Payments), Shopify is still a very solid recommendation — it’s just good software.

Ecwid and Wix each have their own advantages as well, especially for smaller stores. Both are well-designed and user-friendly. Ecwid has an enticing free plan and can be embedded in any existing website, while Wix allows you to develop a particularly elegant and multifunctional storefront using your choice of not one, but two different methods.

We think most small business owners will find a good solution from among these five options. And, we’ll let you in on a rather little-known secret: it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing to migrate platforms. That goes for right now if you’re looking to make a switch, or later if you decide your software isn’t working for you anymore. Nevertheless, you can still head into your decision with the confidence that you’ve done your research and tested the software thoroughly before handing over your credit card. (You’re going to test them first, right? Promise? Good.)

Do you have experience with one or more of these ecommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Business Loans For HVAC Companies

business loans for hvac companies

It’s hard to imagine modern life without the benefit of the work done by the HVAC industry. HVAC companies (HVAC refers to heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are tasked with keeping us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and breathing safely as we live our lives in the archipelago of enclosed spaces that comprises our indoor universe.

With the economy in a period of expansion, demand for new construction has risen, and where the construction industry goes, so goes HVAC work. After all, these new offices, homes, and transportation systems aren’t going to keep themselves ventilated and comfortable.

As with any industry, HVAC companies have their own particular financing needs. There’s no shortage of loan products out there, offered by banks, online lenders, credit card issuers, and even the federal government. But you probably knew that already. The question most relevant to you is: Which types of loans best fit the specific financing needs you’re going to have in the course of operating your HVAC business?

That’s where Merchant Maverick comes in. We’ll help make sense of the lending market for you and direct you to the loan products that best fit your specific needs. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and delve into how to get a business loan for an HVAC company.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Marketing & Advertising Medium-Term Loan Fundation
Equipment Purchasing Equipment Loan Lendio
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Emergency Funds Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Unlimited
Working Capital Short-Term Loan PayPal LoanBuilder
Covering Payroll Line Of Credit OnDeck

Loans For Marketing & Advertising

business loans for HVAC

Whether your HVAC company is just finding its legs and seeking to generate new leads or is established but working to expand, marketing and advertising are integral to an HVAC business’s success. Of course, such a campaign costs money, and the funds need to come from somewhere.

While we’re not here to tell you how to run your marketing campaign, here’s a quick tip: Reach out to people just before summer and winter begin. It’s when your services will be most in demand — for obvious reasons!

Medium-Term Loans

A medium-term loan is an installment loan (a loan that is repaid periodically over a defined period of time with interest) with a term length of between two and five years. You can typically borrow more with a medium-term loan, but if your anticipated marketing campaign won’t cost that much, a short-term loan would be appropriate.

A medium-term loan can obviously be used for any business purpose. However, since you should be able to more accurately estimate the cost of your marketing campaign than many other types of business expenses, a loan in which you borrow a specific amount of money is particularly appropriate here.

Recommended Option: Fundation

fundation logo

Review

Visit Site

Founded in 2011, Fundation has since become one of the leading “alternative” lenders, boasting competitive rates, a solid reputation, and fixed-rate pricing (the interest rate will not increase over the life of the loan). Fundation’s term loans max out at $500K; accordingly, Fundation’s borrower qualifications are stricter than those of many online lenders. Fundation also offers lines of credit of up to $100K.

Fundation’s installment loans are offered with terms of one to four years and are fixed-rate, meaning the assigned interest rate will remain unchanged over the life of the loan. Additionally, Fundation sports a rapid time-to-funding, typically between two and seven days.

Loans For Equipment Purchasing

business loans for hvac companies

The HVAC industry relies on heavy equipment — the bigger the building, the heavier the equipment. Of course, these heating and cooling systems don’t come cheap. While any loan products can be used to cover the cost of purchasing HVAC equipment, there’s one type of loan tailored for this purpose: Equipment loans.

Equipment Loans

In many ways, an equipment loan resembles a traditional installment loan — you’ll be paying down the principal plus interest with monthly payments. The advantage of the equipment loan is that the equipment you purchase with the funds serves as collateral. Equipment loans are therefore secured loans, and secured loans typically have better rates and terms than their unsecured counterparts.

With an equipment loan, the lender usually covers most of the cost of purchasing the equipment, leaving around 10% to 20% to be covered by you. On occasion, however, the lender might be willing to cover the entire cost.

Equipment Leases

An equipment lease is another means of equipment financing. Such leases fall into one of two categories: Capital leases and operating leases.

With a capital lease, you are considered to be the owner of the equipment in question, so the arrangement resembles a loan in many ways. You make your monthly payments throughout the course of the lease. Afterward, you pay a small residual to close your account.

An operating lease lets you essentially rent the equipment during the lease, making monthly payments. When the lease ends, you can either return the equipment or buy it at fair market value, giving you a nice degree of flexibility.

See our article on equipment loans vs equipment leases for more information.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

Lendio isn’t your typical lender. In fact, Lendio isn’t a direct lender at all. Lendio is a loan aggregator, which means that you submit a single loan application which Lendio then passes on to multiple lenders, saving you time and effort. Within about three days of submitting your application, you should be fielding multiple equipment financing offers.

Through Lendio, you can find an equipment loan as large as $5 million, with loan terms ranging from one to five years and interest rates as low as 7.5% for highly qualified borrowers.

Loans For Business Expansion

business loans for hvac companies

Let’s say your HVAC company has been thriving and is ready to expand to meet the challenges of our glorious future of relentless climate extremes. Without an infusion of cash, however, your expansion plans may not be feasible. If you’re looking for a sizable loan at a reasonable interest rate, consider an SBA loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an agency of the federal government meant to assist small businesses in obtaining funding. For the most part, the SBA does not lend directly to businesses. Rather, it guarantees up to 85% of loans offered by SBA-approved lenders. These lenders are known as intermediaries.

While SBA loans feature competitive rates and terms, be warned that borrower requirements tend to be rather stringent.

Here’s a rundown of four of the main SBA loan programs with links to articles describing the programs in greater detail.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

Review

Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

Review

CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

Review

Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

Review

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

Review

Visit Site

There is no shortage of SBA-approved lenders out there. However, if you’re looking to grow your HVAC business with an SBA loan, you might find the complex SBA application process to be intimidating and fraught with peril. The beauty of SmartBiz is that the company helps simplify and streamline the application process for you so that you can make sense of it all.

SmartBiz is not a lender. Describing themselves as the “white knight in small business lending,” SmartBiz will match you with an SBA-approved lender after helping you through the onerous application process. You’ll need to have at least two years of business history behind you and a personal credit score of at least 650, but if you meet these and other requirements, you can get an SBA-backed loan of up to $350,000 with interest rates between 8% and 9%. Not too shabby!

Loans For Emergency Funds

business loans for hvac

Let’s say the construction industry takes a downturn, leaving you with less business. You still have employees to pay and expenses to cover. How should a company in your position deal with unexpected cash flow problems? When you need a flexible funding solution you can draw from on an as-needed basis, consider a business credit card.

Business Credit Cards

As business credit cards tend to feature higher interest rates than business loans, they aren’t an ideal funding mechanism in many instances. But when unexpected situations arise and you need a stop-gap measure to temporarily plug some funding holes, there’s nothing like the ease and convenience of a business credit card. With the right card, you can cover emergencies while earning rewards and/or cash back along the way.

A good credit history will help you get lower interest rates and a higher credit limit. However, even with a less-than-stellar credit history, there are options available to you, including secured credit cards, which require a security deposit.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, whatever you do, don’t pay for a credit check. Here are some websites that let you check your credit score for free.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited card is a great way to cover those unexpected expenses while earning 1.5% cash back to boot. If you’re using a credit card to cover emergencies, you’re probably not looking for a card with rotating cash back spending categories or lavish travel benefits. The Ink Business Unlimited comes without these extraneous distractions so you can focus on getting your HVAC business out of a jam while earning cash back on everything you buy.

Keep in mind that you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Ink Business Unlimited. If your credit doesn’t fit that description, check out these options for business owners with poor credit.

Loans For Working Capital

loans for hvac businesses

Working capital refers to the money you use to keep your business running on a day-to-day basis. When times are good, your cash flow should be sufficient to keep your company running smoothly. The problem is that without extraordinary luck, times will not always be good, particularly in a field prone to seasonal slow-downs like the HVAC industry.

When seeking a loan for this purpose, you’ll want something that affords you a high degree of flexibility in terms of what you can spend your funds on. For this reason, a short-term loan may be worth your consideration.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is an installment loan that must be repaid within 12 months or less. Payments must be made on a weekly or even daily basis and are normally deducted automatically from your business account. If approved, you can usually get your funds within a few days. Short-term loans are all about fast money, both in terms of getting the money and paying it back.

Instead of charging interest on what you borrow, short-term lenders charge you a flat fee known as a factor rate. This factor rate is a multiplier that determines the lender’s fee. I’ll give an example: Take out a $50,000 loan at a 1.2 factor rate, and you’ll be paying $60K for the loan over the agreed-upon term length.

Recommended Option: PayPal LoanBuilder

Review

Check Eligibility

PayPal’s LoanBuilder is what the name suggests. You essentially build your own loan by customizing its elements to fit your particular situation. The loans offered range from $5K to $500K and term lengths run from 13 to 52 weeks.

LoanBuilder’s lender requirements aren’t terribly strict. Your business must have been running for at least 9 months. Your annual revenue must be at least $42,000 and your personal credit score must be at least 550. As ever, your credit history and your company’s overall health will determine your maximum borrowing amount and your rates.

Loans For Covering Payroll

 

Heating and cooling systems don’t install themselves. To ensure that our apartments, workplaces, and shopping centers don’t become unlivable nasty hellscapes, an HVAC business needs workers. Workers need to be hired, trained, and paid, all of which costs money.

If you need help hiring new employees (or paying the ones you already have), consider a line of credit.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit operates on the same principle as a credit card. Instead of receiving a lump sum of dinero all at once, you’re given a credit line you can draw from whenever you feel the need. As with a credit card, you’ll have a credit limit to contend with, and you pay fees and interest only on the funds you use, not the total amount of the line of credit.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

Review

Visit Site

If you need funding quickly, consider a line of credit from OnDeck. Approval should come in a matter of days, and the credit requirements are not particularly strict. Your credit line can run anywhere from $6K to $100K.

One thing to keep in mind about OnDeck’s lines of credit is that they are a short-term funding mechanism, lasting only about 6 months.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

business loans for hvac businesses

For business owners seeking a loan, there has never been a wider array of funding options. To help narrow down your search, consider the following questions.

Why Do I Need A Loan?

Before you can even start looking at particular options, you need to be certain of the purpose of your loan. Whether you’re looking to expand your business or purchase new equipment, only by defining your precise need can you select a loan product that fits what you seek to accomplish. Otherwise, you’re flying blind without any point of reference.

No one lender or loan makes sense for every business need under the sun. Know what it is that you need and shop accordingly!

Am I Qualified?

There’s no need to examine a lender in detail if you won’t qualify for its loans in the first place. Try to find and examine a lender’s minimum qualifications before going through the terms and fees with a fine-toothed comb.

Vendors of business loans nearly always inquire about your time in business, credit rating, and revenue. On each of these measures, the lender may have a strict cutoff point where, if you don’t meet the benchmark, you don’t qualify. Alternately, they may just use this information to determine your rates. Either way, it’s information you’ll need to provide.

Do The Rates & Terms Meet My Needs?

It’s obviously important to consider a lender’s rates and terms when deciding on what loan to pursue. Make sure you can afford the funding; nothing will give you nightmares like taking out a loan you can’t repay. However, a lender’s reputation and business practices are equally important. To get a sense of just how a lender treats its customers, try to find user feedback on the company in question wherever you can. Read enough reviews (we do business loan reviews, you know!) and borrower feedback and you’ll get a pretty good idea as to whether the lender is an honest broker or a predator fixing to bleed you dry.

What You Need To Apply For HVAC Business Loans

The number of documents you’ll have to round up depends on the lender. Naturally, you’ll need the basics — name, business name, address, telephone number, email address, social security number, and federal tax ID number. Many lenders will require much more, however. Here are some documents you should be prepared to submit, depending on the lender:

  • Business & Personal Credit Reports/Score
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Income Statements
  • Business Licenses
  • Business Owner Resumes
  • A Business Plan

For a more thorough look at how to apply for a business loan, read our in-depth take on business loan requirements.

Final Thoughts

Now more than ever, we need the HVAC industry at the top of its game. As I write this, wind-driven fires have spread dangerously smoky air over large parts of my tinder-dry home state of California, and proper indoor ventilation is literally the last line of defense for many in the affected areas.

When seeking a loan for your HVAC company, do your due diligence, explore all your options, and get your documents in order. This should set you up nicely for getting the loan that paves the way for your success.

The post Business Loans For HVAC Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Google Domains vs. GoDaddy: Domain Name Providers Compared

Google Domains vs. GoDaddy_ Domain Name Providers Compared

Google Domains and GoDaddy are two of the most well-known domain name registrars on the Internet. I’ve written about both Google Domains and compared GoDaddy to NameCheap (their other big competitor). But how do they compare to each other?

Visit GoDaddy’s Current Domain Coupon

Visit Google Domain’s Current Selection

Domain Registrars are a unique industry. Since ICANN issues all domain names, leaving Registrars mainly as bookkeepers, there is not a ton of scope to offer completely different products. At the end of the day, you simply need a domain name that you can associate with a server where your data lives.

And yet, not all domain registrars are the same (which is why you are reading this post, I’m guessing). I’ve tried dozens and have had every problem imaginable. There is no such thing as a “best” domain registrar. Everybody has tradeoffs. And Google and GoDaddy are actually a good example of very different approaches to domain registration.

I was a Day One customer of Google Domains back at their launch, and I’ve been a customer (and consultant to customers) of GoDaddy for 10+ years.

Here are my thoughts on Google Domains vs. GoDaddy based on company structure, pricing structure, domain selection, usability, customer support, and complementary products.

You can also Skip to Conclusion.

Disclosure: I receive customer referral fees from companies on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customers.

Company Structure

For long-term projects, company structure matters more than really anything else. An investor-funded startup will have very different incentives than a publicly traded company. And a product that directly makes a profit will be treated differently than a product that complements a company’s main profit center.

Google and GoDaddy are very well-known brands, but are very different companies in regards to domains.

GoDaddy and Google are both publicly traded companies. They answer to their shareholder’s short and long-term demands for profit.

GoDaddy was founded as a domain registrar. Domains are their thing. Now, they expanded to be an online business services company in recent years. Domains are now part of their profit puzzle. For GoDaddy, domains are still their “thing” but they are increasingly a loss-leader to sell other products such as website builders, web hosting, bookkeeping, and email.

GoDaddy wants you to buy a domain, because they know that once you buy, then you’ll buy other stuff and probably stick around.

Google is an advertising company. They make their money selling extremely targeted ads based on data that no one else has. Domains are absolutely not their “thing”. However, Google does want and need your loyalty and your data more than anything in the world. They also need websites to be on the open Web.

The biggest loss for Google is for you to run your business off Facebook and Instagram while never logging into Google. Now, recently Google has started making money off Enterprise & Business Services via their Cloud and G Suite services. But that’s a complement to their data need.

Google wants you to buy a domain so that you are, at minimum, logged into Google with an independent website that they can index and that you’ll probably run ads to. Additionally, if you buy a domain from Google, you might buy G Suite for your business.

The Upside: You can get a good deal from both these companies. GoDaddy will run crazy discounts just to get you to buy. Google wants everything to be simple and easy.

The Downside: Your actual domain is not a huge concern for either company. GoDaddy only cares about your domain in so far as you stick around and buy stuff. And Google isn’t really sure if they want to do domains. In fact, Google Domains is now in its 5th Year of “beta”. In other words, it’s still a “test product” that Google might shut down any day without advance notice (a habit of theirs).

Google Domains

The Alternatives: If you read those and thought “hmm, well those don’t sound that great either” – well, you might want to check out either Hover or NameCheap. They both focus on & make money off domains. Hover has excellent usability and NameCheap has excellent long-term pricing and solid complementary products.

If you really like the upsides of Google & GoDaddy, then let’s look at how they play out across other factors.

Pricing Structure

Google Domains has a flat rate for domains with no discounts or promos. Their renewal (and upfront) purchase price is slightly higher than some domain registrars, but also not too far out of line to be an issue. Pricing is simple and transparent.

Google Domains Pricing

GoDaddy is a bit different. Their renewal pricing is higher than most direct competitors like NameCheap and Hover, but they run deeper 1 year discounts than any registrar that I’ve ever used.

This link redirects to GoDaddy’s most current discount.

GoDaddy also has a membership program for people who own a lot of domains. It’s an annual fee, but then you can renew hundreds of domains at excellent long-term pricing.

If you plan on keeping your domain for more than ~4 years, then you might as well go with Google Domains for pricing.

If you want to save a bit of money right now, then you should take advantage of GoDaddy’s current discount. And if you are really into saving money, you can grab GoDaddy’s discount and simply transfer your domain elsewhere at the end of your term.

Domain Selection

Ever since the great ICANN domain name gold rush, vanity TLDs (top level domains) have become more and more common. No TLD will ever displace .com and .org but if domain names for your industry are crowded, then a niche TLD might be worth it.

But you can’t buy one from every registrar.

Fortunately, both GoDaddy and Google have fairly expansive lists for common TLDs. However, for sheer selection, Google cannot come near GoDaddy (especially when it comes to Premium domains and Auctions).

Google Domains TLDs

GoDaddy TLD

As of October 2018, GoDaddy has more than 480 TLDs to choose from compared to Google’s 227.

This is not a huge issue (since you can just check each), but if you are planning on buying additional vanity or brand domains, selection is something to keep in mind.

Usability

You probably won’t be actively managing domains day in and day out. So on one hand, domain name management is not a huge factor. However, when you do have to manage your domains…you *really* need to manage them. So on the other hand, domain name management is pretty critical.

Settings should be clear. Interfaces should have good design.

On this point, Google Domains shines…almost to a fault.

Google Domains has nothing to upsell or resell or push, so the interface is minimalist. The product has Google’s Material Design aesthetic with clear settings and straightforward interfaces.

Google Domains Interface

GoDaddy in contrast…has a bit of a reputation here.

While they have dramatically improved since 2013, GoDaddy’s interfaces are still quite maddening. Once you figure them out, everything is good. But at the start, it’s hard to find complex settings (like the ones you might need to set up G Suite Email). At every turn, they have some product to sell (Premium DNS!). And settings that they don’t want you to use (like the Authorization Code to leave) are straight up buried.

GoDaddy Dashboard

Now – that’s not necessarily a big deal. I have a client who has used GoDaddy for 12 years and has needed to change a setting exactly once that whole time. The other time…I got to do it. GoDaddy works, it’s cheap, and it’s a known big brand.

But if you are actively managing domains – you should go with Google Domains or another registrar like Hover that focuses on clean user experience.

Customer Support

Customer support for domains. It’s one of those factors that you don’t really need until you **really** need it.

Google Domains does provide some support in English, Spanish, French and Japanese. They offer phone, chat, and email 24 hours a day. It’s pretty standard support.

Google Domains Support

GoDaddy has the full gamut of support via phone, email, chat, knowledgebase, etc. They offer localized support depending on which GoDaddy subsidiary you’re with.

GoDaddy Support

Like all customer support, it’s a bit anecdotal but my experience with GoDaddy has been fine with the expected mega-corp annoyances. Google has also been fine, but they definitely seem to be building their team still. Even as recently as a year ago, they only offered support for business hours in English.

Complementary Products

Domains are not stand alone products. By themselves, domains can do very little other than point somewhere.

I am a fan of buying domains from a domain registrar and purchasing complementary products elsewhere (e.g. hosting, email, storage, etc). I do it to save a bit of money and build diversity into my setups (ie, if company X has issues, it’s easier to move if company Y is still fine).

However, that setup is also a bit of a pain. I don’t wholeheartedly recommend it. And for those who want a convenient setup with a single good company handling hosting, email, domains, etc – it’s important to have one that has those complementary products.

Like customer support, Google Domains does not really have a ton of complementary products. Google Domains will directly integrate with Google Sites (Google’s free website builder), Blogger (Google’s free blog service), and G Suite (Google’s business email & storage.

Google Domains Website Integrations

However, Google does not provide traditional hosting and their website builders are lacking.

GoDaddy’s complementary products are their “thing” – they have everything from every flavor of hosting (including WordPress, Shared, Reseller, VPS, etc) to email to storage to accounting to security solutions to website builders and payment processing.

GoDaddy Focus

If you are looking for a company to have everything with for convenience, then GoDaddy “wins” hands down.

If you are looking for a company that has integration with email but will integrate your domain with 3rd parties, then Google Domains is solid.

Next Steps

Like I’ve said in all my reviews and comparisons, there is no such thing as a “best” anything. There is only the best for you based on your preferences, needs, and resources.

If you want a simple place to register your domain and integrate with Google Apps, then Google Domains is a fit for you.

If you want a registrar with discounts and lots of complementary products, then GoDaddy is a fit for you.

And if you still aren’t sure, then read my Domain Registrar Guide here.

The post Google Domains vs. GoDaddy: Domain Name Providers Compared appeared first on ShivarWeb.

“”

Small Business Loans For Beauty And Nail Salons

Whether you’re the owner of an established beauty salon or it’s your dream to open your own nail spa, one thing is clear: your business needs money. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, but what happens when the money’s just not there?

If you’re the owner of a beauty or nail salon and you need money to grow your business (or you’re ready to get your business off the ground), consider a small business loan as one of your best resources. With a small business loan, you can pay your business expenses, tackle that unexpected emergency, or expand your customer base with a new marketing campaign.

No matter what your needs, a small business loan has you covered. Before diving into the application process, know what to expect, the kinds of loans you’ll encounter, and which type of loan works best for your business. Read on to learn more about the options available to you to start or expand your beauty or nail salon.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Equipment Purchasing Equipment Financing Lendio
Business Expansion SBA 7(a) Loans SmartBiz
Supplies & Inventory Line Of Credit Fundbox
Emergency Funding Business Credit Cards Chase Ink Business Cash
Marketing & Advertising Short Term Loans Credibly
Cash Flow Cash Flow Loans StreetShares
Starting A Salon Startup Loans BlueVine

Equipment Purchasing

Your beauty salon equipment is outdated and desperately needs to be upgraded. Your nail salon is booming, and you need to purchase more stations and equipment to better serve your customers.

This equipment comes at a cost — a cost that your business may not be able to afford.

If you need to purchase equipment but don’t have the money to buy it outright, there’s a financing option. Instead of draining your bank account, consider equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a simple concept. A lender provides you with the money you need to purchase equipment. This allows you to take possession and put the equipment into use immediately. Because the lender provided the funds, you don’t have to pay the full equipment costs out-of-pocket. Instead, you’ll be able to pay back the loan through affordable scheduled payments.

Equipment financing can only be used toward the purchase of equipment for your business. For beauty and nail salons, this could include hair dryers, stylist chairs, or a point-of-sale system. Rates, terms, down payments, and loan amounts are based on creditworthiness. Most lenders look for credit scores in the high 600s, although some will accept lower credit scores. High-risk borrowers may be required to put more money down or pay higher interest rates.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

Lendio is a loan-matching service that connects you to over 75 business lenders. Through Lendio, you can receive offers from multiple lenders with just one application. This cuts down on the amount of time you’ll spend shopping for a loan while ensuring you receive the best offers.

Lendio offers equipment financing for business owners. Other loan products offered through Lendio’s network include term loans, SBA loans, lines of credit, and business credit cards.

For Lendio’s equipment financing programs, all borrowers must be in business for at least 12 months, bring in at least $10,000 per month in revenue, and have a credit score of 650.

Equipment loans of up to $5 million are available, with repayment terms between 1 and 5 years. Interest rates start at 7.5% for the most qualified borrowers. Fees vary by lender, and the equipment being financed typically serves as the collateral.

Business Expansion

Your business and customer base are growing so much, it’s time for your salon to expand. Maybe you want to build an addition to your existing salon, or you want to purchase commercial real estate to open a new location. While business expansion means that your business is growing, it also means additional expenses.

Most business owners don’t have the means to fund expansion expenses out-of-pocket. Even if they do, tying up such a large amount of their capital isn’t always the wisest move. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about taking on this burden by yourself. With a Small Business Administration loan, you’ll be able to break large expenses into smaller, more manageable monthly payments.

SBA 7(a) Loans

The Small Business Administration offers multiple loan programs, but the 7(a) loan is one of the most popular. With high loan limits, flexible repayment terms, and low interest rates, it’s easy to see why this is a top choice for qualified business owners.

The SBA 7(a) loan can be used for almost any business purpose, including business expansion. You can update your existing salon, purchase commercial real estate, or fund any other business expense with this loan.

SBA 7(a) loans are available in amounts up to $5 million. Repayment terms are 10 years for most purposes and maximum terms of 25 years are available for commercial real estate purchases. Interest rates are set at the prime rate plus a maximum of 4.75% based on the amount of your loan and repayment terms.

SBA 7(a) loans are typically reserved for the most qualified borrowers. To qualify for SBA loans, you must have a credit score in the high 600s and meet the SBA’s definition of a small business. Your credit report must be free of liens, collections, recent bankruptcies, and foreclosures. If you’ve previously defaulted on a government loan, you will not be eligible. Your business must be in an approved industry, based in the U.S., and have a time in business of at least 2 years.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

Review

Visit Site

The process for receiving an SBA loan is notoriously long. Some borrowers wait months just to get the funding they need. SmartBiz is a lender that simplifies the process.

SmartBiz offers SBA commercial real estate loans from $500,000 up to $5 million. Interest rates are 6.75% to 8% with repayment terms up to 25 years. Working capital loans up to $350,000 are available with fees between 8% and 9% and repayment terms of 10 years.

SmartBiz charges several fees for obtaining an SBA loan, including referral fees, packaging fees, guarantee fees, and closing costs. Collateral may be required to receive your loan. Loans can be funded in as quickly as seven days through SmartBiz.

Supplies & Inventory Purchasing

POS systems for spas

There are critical supplies you need for daily business operations, not to mention customer inventory — like shampoo, hair brushes, nail polish, etc. — that helps bring in additional revenue. When you don’t have the supplies you need, you’re unable to perform the services that customers seek. When your inventory is depleted, you’re missing out on this additional revenue stream.

Whether you’re running low on supplies and inventory or you forecast a seasonal increase in the near future, there comes a time when you need to replenish your stock. If you’re not in a financial position to pay cash for supplies and inventory, consider applying for a business line of credit.

Business Line Of Credit

A business line of credit is a type of revolving credit that can be accessed as needed. Once approved by a lender, you’ll be given a credit limit. You can make multiple draws on your account, so you can receive the money you need right when you need it.

With a business line of credit, interest or fees will be charged only on the used portion of funds. As you repay your loan through weekly or monthly payments, these funds will become available for you to use again.

Lines of credit are available for most salon owners, regardless of credit score. While some lenders have credit score requirements, others base their approval decision on the performance of the business. Most lenders have time in business limits typically between 6 and 12 months, but there are some lenders that do not have minimum requirements. Annual revenue requirements are between $50,000 and $100,000 to qualify for most business lines of credit, but again, certain lenders do not have requirements in place.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

Review

Visit Site

Fundbox is a lender that provides lines of credit up to $100,000. To qualify, a borrower must have at least two months of activity in an accounting software app supported by Fundbox. If the borrower is unable to meet this requirement, bank statements showing transactions over the last three months can be submitted.

There are no credit limit requirements to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. The application process is quick and easy, and an approval can be given in just minutes. Once approved, funds are available for immediate withdrawal and are typically transferred as soon as the next business day.

Fees for using Fundbox begin at 4.66%. Repayment terms are set at 12 or 24 weeks, and there are no prepayment penalties.

Emergency Funding

It happens to the best of us: an unexpected expense. If an emergency arises, even the most financially responsible salon owner can be taken by surprise.

If you’re facing a financial emergency, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and know that there are options for getting over this financial hurdle. Read on to learn why a business credit card can be a critical resource in these stressful situations.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is just like a personal credit card, except it is used to cover business expenses. Once you’re approved for a credit card, the lender will set a credit limit. You can use the card as often as you wish anywhere credit cards are accepted, up to your assigned credit limit.

Credit card payments are due each month and will be applied toward the principal balance and the interest charged by the lender. As you pay back borrowed funds, they become available to use again.

A credit card is helpful during emergencies because you don’t have to wait for approval from the lender. If you’ve already received your card, you can use it as needed for any business expense, from covering operating costs to purchasing supplies. Credit cards can even be used for recurring expenses month after month.

With responsible use, a credit card can not only help you cover unexpected expenses but can also lead to great rewards. Many lenders offer rewards programs with their credit cards. Just by using your card, you can earn points with every qualified purchase that can be redeemed for cash or other perks.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

If you have good to excellent credit, you can qualify for the Chase Ink Business Cash card. This card comes with no annual fee, an introductory APR of 0% for the first year, and variable APRs of 15.24% to 21.24% after the introductory period.

With this card, you can receive 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent toward internet, cable, and phone purchases, as well as office supply store purchases. You’ll receive 2% on the first $25,000 spent at restaurants and gas stations and 1% cash back for all other purchases.

When you sign up for this credit card, you can receive $500 cash back just by spending $3,000 or more within 3 months of opening your account.

Unsure if this is the right card for you? Learn more about other Chase Ink credit cards for your business.

Marketing & Advertising

Customers are critical to the success of your beauty or nail salon. Without customers, you don’t have a business. While you may already have clientele, a growing business always needs more customers. To bring in these customers, marketing and advertising is critical.

Sure, you could rely on your social media presence alone, but if you really want to expand your business, you’ll need to launch a marketing and advertising campaign. If the cost of marketing and advertising is holding you back from growing your business, consider applying for a short-term loan to make this expense more manageable.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is a loan for a specific amount of money that is paid back through smaller scheduled payments over a set period of time. While most short-term loans have repayment terms of one year or less, some lenders offer terms up to three years.

Most short-term loans don’t have an interest rate. Instead, these loans have a fee known as a factor rate. This multiplier is used to determine a one-time cost that is added to your loan.

Because short-term loans are for a specific amount, it’s important that you plan out your expenses to make sure you receive enough money. Do your research, calculate pricing, and form a plan for your marketing and advertising campaign before applying for a short-term loan.

Short-term loan requirements for time in business and annual revenue vary by lender. Your personal credit score will be considered, but scores in the 500s are accepted by some lenders. Borrowers with the best credit scores will be approved for higher loan amounts with lower fees and rates and better terms.

Recommended Option: Credibly

Review

Visit Site

Credibly provides short-term loans of up to $250,000 for eligible borrowers. Repayment terms are available for 6 to 17 months. Factor rates for the most qualified borrowers are as low as 1.15. A one-time origination fee of 2.5% of the total loan amount is charged by the lender. Credibly payments are made daily or weekly.

To qualify, borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 500. All borrowers must have been in business for at least 6 months and have at least $15,000 per month deposited to their bank accounts.

In addition to its short-term working capital loans, Credibly also provides business expansion loans and merchant cash advances.

Cash Flow

As a salon owner, it’s not uncommon to experience periods where business is slower than usual. Even when your cash flow slows down, you still have expenses … and this can be a problem.

Fortunately, a cash flow loan can provide you with the money you need to fill in these gaps. Whether you need funds to meet payroll or money for daily operating expenses, a cash flow loan can provide you with the capital you need when business slows down.

Cash Flow Loans

A cash flow loan provides you with the money you need when your cash flow has slowed. These funds are used to pay your expenses to keep your business running as it should.

There are several types of cash flow loans available. If you know the specific amount of money that you need, a term loan is a good choice. With this type of financing, you receive a lump sum and repay the loan, plus interest, through regular installments.

A line of credit is another type of cash flow loan. These loans are best for businesses that may have recurring expenses that require multiple draws.

Qualifying for a cash flow loan requires a minimum credit score of 500. Time in business and annual revenue requirements vary by lender.

Recommended Option: StreetShares

Review

Visit Site

StreetShares is a lender that offers multiple loan options to small- and medium-sized businesses. Term loans and lines of credit are available in amounts up to $250,000 with repayment terms up to 36 months. Contract financing is also available.

To qualify for a StreetShares loan, a business must be in operations for at least one year with minimum revenue of $25,000 per year. A credit score of at least 620 is required for all borrowers.

Starting A Salon

While we’ve addressed common financial challenges you’ll face when expanding your salon, what if you aren’t yet at that point? What if you’re the new business on the block, and you need extra money to really get your endeavor off the ground?

If you’re looking for money to start your own beauty or nail salon, qualifying for business loans can be difficult. However, it’s not impossible to receive the money you need to open your own salon if you know where to look. The first place to start is with a startup loan.

Startup Loans

A startup loan is a loan that is used to pay the expenses associated with starting a business, such as hiring employees, buying or leasing real estate, or purchasing equipment like POS systems and software.

For most startup loans from alternative lenders, a minimum credit score of around 600 is required. Interest rates are based on the borrower’s personal creditworthiness.

Some lenders require a minimum time in business. If this is a requirement, another option that can be considered is a personal loan. A personal loan can be used to fund startup costs and may come with a lower interest rate for borrowers with a solid credit profile.

Recommended Option: BlueVine

Review

Visit Site

BlueVine is an alternative lender that provides lines of credit up to $5 million for new businesses. Repayment terms of 6 months are available through BlueVine. The APR for receiving this financing is 15% to 78%.

To qualify, borrowers must be in business for at least 6 months. A minimum credit score of 600 and $120,000 in annual revenue is required to receive BlueVine’s line of credit. The application process is easy, there are no hidden fees, and lines of credit are funded quickly.

Bad Credit? Your Best Financing Options

The best business loans require high credit scores, so does that mean you’re left out in the cold if your credit history isn’t where it needs to be? Actually, there are financing options available for you if you have bad credit, but you should be aware that these loans come with higher interest rates, lower borrowing amounts, and a possible need for collateral.

Before applying for a loan, you should always know your credit score. You can obtain your free credit score quickly and easily online. Once you have your score, you can get a better idea of the types of loans available to you.

The best options for borrowers with bad credit are lines of credit, equipment financing, and short-term loans. These financing options typically have lower borrower requirements — including credit scores — than other loans.

Business credit cards are also a great choice for borrowers with poor credit. There are unsecured options available to borrowers with lower scores. Anyone that doesn’t qualify for an unsecured card can receive a secured card backed by a security deposit. After making several on-time payments, the borrower can build their credit and qualify for better financing options.

Bad credit limits your lending options and results in a higher overall cost for loans. If your funding need isn’t immediate, your best move is to take steps to raise your personal credit score. Although this option takes time, you’ll receive better loan offers that are more affordable for your business.

If you need financing urgently before you can build up your credit, consider applying for the Capital One Spark Classic business credit card. This credit card is available to borrowers with scores as low as 580.

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

With this credit card, you’ll be able to receive unlimited 1% cash back rewards on all purchases. Because this card is designed for borrowers with lower credit scores, the APR is fairly high at 24.74%. However, there is no annual fee, and Capital One reports to multiple credit agencies, allowing you to build your credit (provided you make your payment on time each month). As your credit score rises, you’ll be qualified to apply for business credit cards and other loan options with lower interest rates and better terms.

What You Need To Apply For Beauty & Nail Salon Business Loans

What you need to apply for a beauty or nail salon business loan varies based on the lender you work with and the type of loan you’re seeking. For example, a business credit card application typically requires some basic information, including your business name, federal tax ID number, annual revenue, social security number, and contact information.

For other financial products, such as SBA loans and startup loans, more extensive documentation is required. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Personal Financial Statements
  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Balance Sheets
  • Income Statements
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Bank Statements
  • Future Financial Projections
  • Owner Resumes
  • Business Licenses

Requirements vary by lender, so once you’ve chosen a lender, make sure you discuss what documentation and information are required. Make yourself available throughout the lending process to provide more information as needed. Learn more about small business loan requirements before you apply.

Final Thoughts

It’s common to encounter financial hurdles while growing your salon, which is when taking out a loan just makes sense. By doing your research and becoming a responsible borrower, you’ll be able to boost and expand your business without clearing out your checking account. That’s the beauty of small business loans.

The post Small Business Loans For Beauty And Nail Salons appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”